In international diplomacy, participants sometimes view even small steps as great accomplishments. See, for example, the buzz in global-warming circles around the U.N. climate-change conference in Cancun. which wrapped up over the weekend.
Hopes for a wide-ranging and legally binding climate-change treaty any time soon died last December at a much-anticipated conference in Copenhagen. A year later in Cancun, ambitions were tamped down. Some of the toughest questions, such as about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, were hardly addressed. The Cancun conference became more about rescuing the complex international climate negotiation framework from irrelevancy or even collapse.
It seems to have done so — by beginning to establish international institutions that will be necessary for a coherent global response to climate change, however long that takes to organize: a “Green Fund” to help developing countries adapt to climate change and remove carbon from their economies; critical mechanisms to monitor and verify nations’ emissions-cutting efforts; a program to fight deforestation. U.S. representatives can claim some victories on monitoring and verification, on the structure of the Green Fund and on cajoling developing nations such as China to subject their emissions promises to standards similar to those that apply to rich nations.
Even when fully elaborated, though, these responses will be no more than vessels into which countries must put money and actions, and that’s far from guaranteed. On deforestation, for example, the negotiators couldn’t resolve critical questions about how to pay for the effort. They pushed many difficult decisions to the next big climate conclave next year in South Africa. The U.N. negotiating framework survived, but with much larger challenges ahead.
— Washington Post