Step Up: Wonky Cancun Edition


Negotiators from around the world arrived in Cancun last week seeking not a comprehensive legally binding agreement - as was sought in Copenhagen - but a "balanced" package that would address key areas of the negotiations. This - it was hoped - would put the talks back on track towards the ultimate agreement needed.

Thus far Cancun has seen a constructive atmosphere from most parties. On some of the substantive issues under discussion the outlines of agreements are in sight. But the underlying question of the ultimate legal form of the outcome is bubbling away under the surface and will need to be addressed in week two for progress in other areas to be captured.

As the high level ministers arrive this week, the most pressing question is whether developed countries will signal their support for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by putting the informal mitigation pledges they made under the Copenhagen Accord into the formal negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Arriving ministers can breathe life into the Kyoto Protocol. But it is vital that these efforts do not suck the political momentum from progress on other issues. Success in Cancun will require more than a quelling of political tensions and must include real progress to protect the millions of poor people whose livelihoods lie in the balance.

It's essential that the political energy of ministers is used to ensure real progress is made on not just a few issues, but all areas where agreement can be reached in the formulation of the "balanced" package. This means not kicking the can down the road on major questions related to a fair global climate fund that protects poor, vulnerable people from the growing threats of a changing climate.

Right now less than 10% of climate finance is flowing to adaptation projects which help poor people build resilience. A complex "spaghetti bowl" of different funding channels - each with its own eligibility criteria, application procedures and reporting requirements- leave vast uncertainty about the impacts our efforts are making.

Decisions here in Cancun can address this 'Adaptation Gap'. Establishing fair climate fund and guaranteeing at least 50% of the resources of the fund are dedicated to adaptation is an essential first step.

A fair climate fund must also chart a new path by placing the concerns of women at its heart. Women are worst affected by climate change - but also key agents in building solutions in their communities that work. A fair climate fund would ensure a strong voice for women in its decision-making structures, such as who controls the finance, and guarantee that the needs and interests of women are central to its policies and priorities.

There has been more progress during this past week than in the year since Copenhagen. The negotiators are finally negotiating with each other instead of repeating their long-held positions ad nauseam. Facilitated by skillful chairing from the Mexican presidency it is entirely possible this week to lay the building blocks for an agreement in Durban next year.

If ever there was doubt about the urgency, they should be dispelled by the recent floods and landslides in Colombia, affecting two million people - and more in neighboring countries. This highlights the vulnerability of people who are facing increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather. It is time for ministers to elevate their vision and take the opportunity for our common interests to transcend self-interest. It's time for the leaders to step up.