Despite the recent slew of natural disasters and extreme weather plaguing various parts of the world, optimism about the impact of this winter's annual climate change conference is scarce. Set to take place in Cancun, Mexico this November 29 - December 10, 2010, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) is evoking eye-rolls and sighs over what's expected to be yet another failed attempt at securing a global treaty on combating climate change. This apprehension is a stark contrast to the passionate buzz surrounding last year’s talks in Copenhagen. The vigor with which many world leaders, organizations, and activists attended the uniquely accessible event in Denmark was truly inspiring, and could have instilled hope into the hearts of even the most skeptical of commentators -- if not for the disappointing outcome. Ultimately, only five nations, including the U.S. and China, had any real say in the document that emerged from Copenhagen, which left many unsatisfied with the resulting level of ambition and jurisdiction.
While the U.S. Congress was unable to pass legislation prior to last year's talks (which would have added much-needed clout to President Obama's resolve on combating climate change), the U.S. did pledge to help raise $100 billion in global climate aid for vulnerable countries, as part of the non-legally binding Copenhagen Accord. To date, however, little progress has been made towards raising these funds.
The Accord, described as flimsy and inadequate, did not elaborate on the “how”, so much as the “what”, particularly regarding the $100 billion pledge, and accountability for industrial nations setting limits on emissions to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Thus, the focus of this year's conference will likely be on financing: who will be responsible for what, and how funds will be raised and allocated.
But will the talks result in significant emissions cuts and an effective pay system to compensate low-emitting countries who are hit hardest by climate change? Or will they remain just that…more talks? It's time rich and high-emitting countries, particularly those who tout their leadership roles, walk the walk, too. Last year, an unprecedented number of world leaders came to the table, which proves the urgency of climate change has been acknowledged. Perhaps now that business leaders are starting to direct the conversation towards the economic opportunities that climate change affords (a language those rich and high-emitting countries standing in the way can understand well), that urgency can finally translate into a binding agreement.
Or, perhaps China will save the day as they host their own summit in Tianjin this October. These final preparatory sessions leading up to the Cancun talks present a unique opportunity for China to step up as a leader in achieving a binding climate treaty. China is already the biggest global player in clean energy, but unfortunately, it’s also the largest carbon emitter. Tune in to see what happens, when Link TV brings you live web coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference this October 4 to 9 in Tianjin, China, at LinkTV.org/Tianjin.