Environmentalists cautiously welcomed the deal

It ‘wasn’t enough to save the climate,’ said Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists. ‘But it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made.’

By (Agencies)

Published: Sun 12 Dec 2010, 9:24 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:37 AM

The Cancun deal finessed disputes between industrial and developing countries on future emissions cuts and incorporates voluntary reduction pledges attached to the Copenhagen Accord that emerged from last year’s climate summit in the Danish capital.

It struck a skillful compromise between the US and China, which had been at loggerheads throughout the two week conclave on methods for monitoring and verifying actions to curtail greenhouse gases.

‘What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward,’ said chief US negotiator Todd Stern. His Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, sounded a similar note and added, ‘The negotiations in the future will continue to be difficult.’

The accord ‘goes beyond what we expected when we came here,’ said Wendel Trio of the Greenpeace environmental group.

Underscoring what’s at stake in the long-running climate talks, NASA reported that the January-November 2010 global temperatures were the warmest in the 131-year record. Its data indicated the year would likely end as the warmest on record, or tied with 2005 as the warmest.

The UN’s top climate science body has said such swift and deep reductions are required to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 F) above preindustrial levels, which could trigger catastrophic climate impacts.

Solon protested that the weak pledges of the Copenhagen Accord condemned the Earth to temperature increases of up to 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 F), which was tantamount to ‘ecocide’ that could cost millions of lives.

He also complained that the text was being railroaded over his protests in violation of the U.N.’s consensus rules.

In the 1992 UN climate treaty, the world’s nations promised to do their best to rein in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted by industry, transportation and agriculture. In the two decades since, the annual conferences’ only big advance came in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, when parties agreed on modest mandatory reductions by richer nations.

But the US, alone in the industrial world, rejected the Kyoto Protocol, complaining it would hurt its economy and that such emerging economies as China and India should have taken on emissions obligations.

Since then China has replaced the US as the world’s biggest emitter, but it has resisted calls that it assume legally binding commitments — not to lower its emissions, but to restrain their growth.

Here at Cancun such issues came to a head, as Japan and Russia fought pressure to acknowledge in a final decision that they will commit to a second period of emissions reductions under Kyoto, whose current targets expire in 2012.

The Japanese complained that with the rise of China, India, Brazil and others, the 37 Kyoto industrial nations now account for only 27 percent of global greenhouse emissions. They want a new, legally binding pact obligating the US, China and other major emitters.

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