Cancun Deal in the Making

United Nations Press Conference Panel, Dec. 6th 2010, CoP 16, Cancun

A deal is surfacing at the CoP 16 in Cancun. The UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Ms. Christiana Figueres is sure that “there is a deal to be done here” and “differences are not insurmountable”. Countries have begun to realize that they have to go beyond their national positions to tackle a problem superseding their short-term national interests.

“We [the UN] have to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor” and help countries understand that there are two huge challenges – climate change and poverty. At this moment, there is not a single nation on the planet which can say ‘this is a model for green growth’. Yet, economic and social growth are what the UN aims for.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Press Conference, CoP 16, Cancun

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon framed the issue in the following way:

“These days, you cannot think of anything without starting with the topic of climate change. Poverty, food security, energy security, water security, and nutrition security, and even now peace and security. The impact of climate change has been working as a source of conflict and if not properly addressed can develop into a much bigger crisis. We have to link all these parts for the security and address them comprehensively.”

In this direction, the UNSG announced that the organization will have to address the 50-50-50 challenge: a 50% increase in population, a 50% decrease in GHG emissions, which will happen before 2050 (visit ‘50-50-50 Starts in Cancun‘ on

Ban Ki-Moon further stated that in order to be realistic at the CoP 16, expectations of a comprehensive and legally biding agreement have to be put to rest. Yet, agreement can be made in Cancun on four issues:

  1. Deforestation: providing adequate financial support for countries who commit to preserving forests.
  2. Adaptation: providing mechanisms for all the poor people suffering from the effects of climate change.
  3. Technology dissemination: “We have to disseminate as much as possible, as quickly as possible, to those developing countries who do not have any capacity to adapt and mitigate, but can use cutting-edge technology.”
  4. Financing: Fast-start financial support and the pledges made by developed countries at Copenhagen have to become a reality. “I think this target is approaching and we can do it! For long term financial support, I have established a high level advisory group with the aim of mobilizing 100 bilion dollars per year until 2020.”

The UNSG did not lack optimism in saying that a deal can be struck between the parties on these issues and the UN’s bodies can cooperate to tackle a range of issues together. Also, there is now way that any country, even the biggest one, can achieve this on its own. Multilateral cooperation is stressed by many as the most important aspect of this process.

Yet, where is the link between climate change and development? Ms. Maria Ignacia Benitez, Minister of Environment of Chile stated: “poverty makes us more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”. It also makes the access to a solution more difficult. This exemplifies a threat to the integrity of the social system. Realizing that “mitigation and adaptation can result in commonwealth for poor people” was the main message Ms. Benitez portrayed.

The main challenge faced by the UN is how to make green growth more inclusive. In other words, how to bring green growth to people who do not have access to clean water. A concrete action-plan under the UNFCCC would address these issues and would allow UNEP, UNDP and UNIDO to cooperate fully in tackling climate change and poverty at the same time.

Concluding a deal on these issues at Cancun will not be easy. Yet, with the UN Secretary-General calling on civil society and indigenous communities to establish a “trilateral pillar” with the aim of “making world leaders move”, he expressed his confidence that everyone can work together. This will add “political heat” through strong commitment by all.


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