Cancun on the Ground: Keys to Climate Success - Creativity and Flexibility

Ban Ki-MoonAccording to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, here in Cancun, Mexico we are in the land of the ancient Mayan goddess Ixchel, who, along with reason and weaving, is the goddess of creativity. I believe that the latter of these three virtues, creativity, is certainly a key to success at these negotiations and beyond if we hope to solve the global climate crisis. 

One of the most important outcomes from last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen was that developed countries pledged to provide “new and additional resources” to fast track and long-term climate financing in support of mitigation and adaptation, approaching $30 billion by 2012 and $100 billion by 2020. Obviously, it is not easy to raise these large amounts of money, but a new report shows that while challenging, it is feasible to raise $100 billion, if not more, by 2020. 

In his welcoming remarks at a December 8th press briefing about the findings of his high-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that, “climate change financing is not about charity… but ultimately an investment in a safer, more stable, more prosperous world for us all.” 

The advisory group was tasked with identifing additional sources of funding to meet the goal of $100 billion by 2020, and a creative inventory of financing mechanisms was the result. The group did not look at the delivery of the mechanisms in detail-- that is for the countries to determine-- nor did they suggest what the balance of public vs. private funding might look like. Their intention was not to make policy decisions but rather, “to provide a toolbox for the decision making process,” said panel member Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, Mexican Minister of Finance. 

According to panel co-chair Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, the report findings are, “a kind of menu where we as decision makers and governments can choose.” There is not one single solution to generate these funds, rather, it will need to come from a variety of sources, and private funding will need to be combined with traditional and new public funding. 

Instruments in the report include auctioning emission allowance (a not-so-new idea, which could raise $30 billion), C02 taxation for international transport (aviation and shipping industries, coming in at $10 billion), and the redirection of funds allocated for subsidizing fossil fuels (raising a possible $10 billion).

Carbon pricing appears to be an important item on the panel’s menu of financing options. Panel co-chair Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, began by noting that it would be difficult to generate these funds in an environment where the cost of carbon is too low, and Stoltenberg reminded that carbon pricing will not only raise revenue, but also give the right incentives to the developed world to reduce emissions.

While the long list of financial instruments offered by the panel is impressive, also worth noting is that such a varied group was able to come to agreement. Aside from the fact that so few women were involved (not a minor oversight as pointed out by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, during the Q&A), the 21-person panel included members from the developed and developing countries, and the private and public sectors.

This brings me to the second key to success: flexibility. Several comments at the briefing alluded to the challenges that this diverse group faced while coming to agreement on the report’s findings. But while each member may not have been 100% satisfied with every detail, they exercised flexibility and respected the views of other members ultimately coming to an agreement. Those at the press briefing were openly pleased with the final report and proud that such a diverse group had produced it.

Informal hallway conversations with conference attendees today provided a mixed review regarding which countries have been flexible vs. which have not. Many shared the opinion that the U.S., China, and Japan were among the least willing to compromise, and others noted that Bolivia, Chile and India showed willingness to negotiate outside their comfort zone. With the 16th Conference of the Parties formally closing tomorrow evening, time will soon tell what countries have or have not acknowledged creative new ideas and found the flexibility to reach around political obstacles. After all, as the Secretary-General has reminded, “Nature isn’t waiting while we negotiate.”


Watch an interview from with UN Fair Play's Charlie Young on the inequalities of negotiations:


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