UN Climate Change Conference Ends with Modest Progress

Delegates from more than 190 nations concluded the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, on Friday. For the second year in a row, the gathering concluded with a set of nonbinding agreements.

The Guardian reported that the conference, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol, were cast into doubt by Russia’s announcement that it would not renew its commitment to the treaty after it expires in 2012. That announcement was seen as an indication of the divide between rich and poor countries when it comes to balancing the needs for more energy and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

During his speech to the gathering, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu

"did not even touch on the subject that many in attendance care most about: how President Obama plans to make good on his pledge at last year’s U.N. summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent in the next 10 years," the New York Times reported.

In the end, the unenforceable agreements, known as the Cancun Agreements, included setting up "a new fund to help poor countries adapt to climate changes, creates new mechanisms for transfer of clean energy technology, provides compensation for the preservation of tropical forests and strengthens the emissions reductions pledges that came out of the last United Nations climate change meeting in Copenhagen last year," the Times reported.

However, no mechanisms for ensuring deeper emissions cuts or for collecting and dispersing $100 billion per year by 2020 from richer countries for the poorer countries fund were established.

Conference officials insisted that they had had modest expectations of the event, seeking to create "building blocks" for next year’s meeting in South Africa.

For details of individual agreements, see the conference website.

Sources: The Guardian, New York Times, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

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