Urgency and Totality in EU’s Cancun Negotiations

Joke Schauvliege (left) and Connie Hedegaard (right) at CoP 16 Press Conference, 10 Dec 2010, Cancun

It is a crucial day for the UNFCCC process, but it is also a crucial day for climate change. As the final negotiations at the CoP 16 in Cancun began, EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard stressed the urgent need for the Parties to agree on a “balanced package”. While this is supposed to include all tracks being negotiated, there are some issues where progress has been slow.

So far, the parties have been negotiating in small working groups on the different topics such as funding, mitigation, adaptation, market mechanisms, accountability rules and transparency. On this final day, all these texts have to come together and be agreed upon by the Parties, which is where the sought-after balance has to be found.

“Everybody is still on speaking terms,” stated Commissioner Hedegaard. “We have to get some good balances,” she emphasized, and added that the pledges made by the Parties in the Copenhagen Accord are only the beginning of the story. Everyone has to find a way to improve what they have already pledged. Also, the EU has recognized that even if the measures listed in the Copenhagen Accord are introduced into the UN process, this will not be enough to avoid the dangers of climate change.

“We want this conference and the text to come out of it to state the obvious: what has been pledged already is not enough to keep us below 2 degrees Celsius”.

At the moment, negotiations are slightly stalled. The working groups are evading commitments on the individual topics until they have seen the overall text. Patricia Espinoza, President of the UNFCCC CoP 16, stated:

“Parties requested the guidance of the Mexican Presidency so that they had a better understanding of the overall and complete package of decisions that we are all constructing together. This is a necessary step for taking difficult decisions that ensure balance within each track… Parties have just received these drafts. We have very limited time to make a last push to improve them. The issues under consideration are complex and informal consultations have been running virtually without stop for many hours”.

The EU Commissioner further underlined this pressing sense of obligation: “We stated clearly that everyone who has ambitions for the future must also realize that if we do not get things done here in Cancun, it is difficult to see how we can come from A to B.” In a sense, the whole process is at stake, and the future of the planet together with it.

The EU’s role in the process continues to be that of a deal-broker. Joke Schauvliege, the Belgian Minister for Environment, Nature and Culture and representative of the current Presidency of the Council of the EU, stated that “We [the EU] build bridges between extreme positions”. With the negotiations entering their final phase, she urged everyone to “always keep in mind that [the EU] are here to save the process, but also climate”.

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