Cancun climate conference: Response to the Cancun Agreements

CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales) response to the Cancun Agreements

CAFOD’s head of policy Gwen Barry said: “Cancun has shown people whose lives depend on these negotiations that the world is serious about preventing devastating climate change. The gains made here in Mexico lay the foundations for action towards a legally binding agreement that could safeguard the future for our children and grandchildren.

“It is a credit to the Mexican presidency of the COP that they created the political space for meaningful negotiation. After the damaging adversarial tone of Copenhagen and Tianjin they have offered us glimpses of a political dynamic that could successfully tackle climate change. The collective spirit of multi-lateralism that filled the last hours of Cancun engendered a level of compromise that saw even recalcitrant nations find room for flexibility.

“But Japan, the US, Russia and Canada – and any nation that did not come to Cancun with ambitious mandates – must be reminded that when the present economic crisis has ended, climate change will still be gathering pace.  And with each year that passes without a globally binding agreement to cut emissions and finance poor countries’ needs to adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon economies, the impacts will become more and more severe.

“We must never forget that behind every issue in the negotiations that is being recognised rather than decided, behind every nation that delays agreement, behind every dollar that is a long-time coming and every emissions reduction target that is too low – there stand millions of people whose lives and ways of living hang in the balance.

“There is still much to be done on the road to Durban and ministers must now take the gains made in Cancun back home with them to secure the national in-roads needed to increase ambition for game-changing progress next year.”


The UK’s role in brokering progress on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been a constructive force during the talks. The tabling of new emissions reduction targets within the range 25-40% by 2020 is a significant leap towards leaving the door open to agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. This is perhaps even more than we could have hoped for when we arrived in Cancun.


Progress on the LCA track is encouraging on transparency, the need to scale up mitigation efforts, the establishment of the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the agreement to discuss legal options. But the devil is again in the detail and we need to see deadlines put in place so that nations cannot put off or side-step their responsibilities. The absence of any mention of the Kyoto Protocol in the LCA text leaves worrying room for the Kyoto countries to jump ship.


We’re looking at some pretty scary numbers right now on the gap between what is pledged and what science says is needed to stop catastrophic climate change. The lack of specific acknowledgement of this gigatonnes gap is a significant omission to setting effective emissions reductions targets. Now we need to move quickly towards the processes that could lead to the exploration of the gap. Although the Cancun Agreements recognise the need for global temperature rises to stay below 2C and to review the science on reducing that to 1.5C, the process of how to get there is unclear. It is also disappointing that the emissions reduction target requirement of 50% by 2050 on 1990 levels, has now been replaced by an agreement to ‘work towards identifying a global goal’.

The mandate within the LCA text for developed nations to increase their emissions targets by COP17 is very weak, but the inclusion of workshops to understand mitigation actions is a step in the right direction. What we need now is increased levels of ambition from industrialised nations on their return home to ensure they bring more to the table on emissions reductions targets by Durban next year.


The establishment of a Global Climate Fund under the auspices of the COP is a significant step forward for the substance of the negotiations and will build trust still needed for game-changing progress next year. There is still much to do on long-term finance, but at least the poorest now know that the outline of the fund is a reality.

The decision to establish a Cancun Adaptation Framework and the recognition of the need to look in more detail at adaptation for poor nations is a welcome development which will be fleshed out by COP17. On the road to Durban, countries must also move towards agreeing finance flow splits of 50:50 for adaptation and mitigation to ensure sufficient funding goes to those affected by climate change on the ground.

But there are plenty of areas of concern – with the $100bn pledged at Copenhagen referenced but without options earmarked on innovative finance mechanisms, or a revew of the scale of financing needed by the poorest nations. And despite the need for long-term cash to be gathered from public sources as the only secure pro-poor revenue flow, the text specifies a mix of public and private funding.

The LCA text further disappoints with it only ‘taking note’ of the AGF report into innovative sources of finance. The invitation of the World Bank in its current state to become trustee of the Global Climate Fund is also worrying for the poorest nations. But it is a positive step that the text indicates that decisions on disbursement of funds will be under the auspices of the COP.

It is still very unclear whether long-term financing will be in addition to existing aid budgets. Climate change is an additional burden for poor nations, not one that replaces the need for support on health, education, human rights and emergencies. Therefore climate finance must be in addition to all monies agreed for development aid.

Media contact: Pascale Palmer +44 7785 950 585


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Filed under Advocacy, Climate Change, Europe, Food, High-Level Meetings and Events, Latin America, Mexico, United Kingdom

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