The Climate Change Agenda After Cancún: Part I

The Climate Change Agenda After Cancún: Part I

This is Part I in a four-part series. Part I examines the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Part II will examine the REDD+ agreement. Part III will examine financial assistance. And Part IV will examine technology transfers and adaptation.

CANCÚN, Mexico -- Observers and participants at December's climate change summit in Cancún, Mexico, routinely identified a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol as one area where progress was essential. The odds of reaching one were not promising. With just one year left on the Kyoto treaty, and Japan firm in its stance that it will not permit an extension beyond the 2012 expiration, there was not a lot of room for maneuver to get an agreement on the table at Cancún.

But allowing the Kyoto Protocol to lapse would remove the only legal constraint keeping the world's major emitters in check, potentially tipping the already fragile climate to the breaking point. That threat kept a Kyoto follow-up deal firmly on the table at this year's talks. As a result, watchdog groups that have usually been critical of global efforts to address climate change offered surprisingly upbeat assessments to describe Cancún's outcome. Their optimism, however, should be measured.

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