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21 Feb 2011 10:02:18

Were the Cancun agreements a success?

As I left the negotiations at the final day of COP16 at around 8pm I was reasonably certain that, due to the constraints of time pressure, the various parties would fall short of reaching a final outcome from which to build on in South Africa in 2011. Despite being very encouraged by the content of the draft of text produced by the Mexican president in an effort to reach a resolution, I thought that an attempt to get to a final agreement looked futile.

Saturday morning was therefore met with some degree of amazement that at around 4am and despite the protestations of Bolivia, a deal was agreed. This agreement, although not earth-shattering in terms of how far it went, helped to cement a multilateral process that had up until this point had looked unlikely to deliver results.

Some way short of being a binding agreement on emission cuts, the Cancun Agreements made vital progress in a number of areas which could make an overarching deal in South Africa much more likely.

In particular, the key areas of progress included provisions on adaptation, REDD+ (avoided deforestation), technology, mitigation and finance. In addition to the agreement other negotiating streams adopted more than 20 other decisions in relation to capacity building, administrative, financial and institutional matters, as well as the use of standardized baselines in clean development mechanism projects (CDM) and other CDM-related improvements.

In particular, the CDM reforms showed a considerable appetite by the various negotiating parties to further improve the regulatory function of the Clean Development Mechanism executive board and supporting services of the secretariat.

With a system that is struggling to live up to its potential to supply Certified Emissions Reductions due to bottlenecks and process issues, the process improvements made during 2010, combined with other areas that have been slated for adoption in 2011, look particularly encouraging for the carbon market and its various stakeholders.

In particular, notable areas of reform include increased transparency, communication, resourcing, standardized baselines and further streamlining of the registration and issuance process.

Looking back on the past two weeks, I think that the Mexican government can be proud of their achievements in hosting a climate change negotiation, which was epitomized by the values of transparent, open and honest dialogue.

Although many people have criticized the achievements of these negotiations and although the results were not in themselves groundbreaking, they did go some way to restoring the faith in a multilateral UNFCCC negotiation process and definitely put the international community on the right track to agreeing a binding deal in South Africa in 2011.

From that perspective at least I think these negotiations can be definitely viewed as successful.

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