Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cancun Agreements Underscore Need for Geoengineering

The outcome of the UNFCCC COP16 meeting held earlier this month in Mexico was a package of decisions known as the "Cancun Agreements." These include:
  • a "Cancun Adaptation Framework"
  • incremental progress on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, including conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks)
  • a "Technology Mechanism"
  • a "Green Climate Fund"

Taken together, these agreements keep the UNFCCC process on life support.

From the perspective of climate engineering, the most important result of the meeting was continued delay in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. For years, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) has been working to reach agreement on binding emissions cuts to take effect after the first Kyoto "commitment period" expires in 2012. AWG-KP missed its original deadline at Copenhagen last year, and pushed back the deadline again at Cancun to a date uncertain. This is hardly surprising given the complexity of the issues and the stakes involved. Furthermore, any mitigation targets eventually agreed upon will almost certainly be insufficient in scale and scope to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change. The results of Cancun underline just how sclerotic mitigation efforts have been up to now, and the necessity of augmenting emissions reductions with some form of climate intervention.

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