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October 9, 2010

The final formal negotiating session before this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference has just concluded in Tianjin, China.

Where are we in terms of achieving something substantial in Cancun later this year? While it is true that no comprehensive and legally binding deal is expected in Cancun, substantial advancements in negotiations are expected to prepare for such a deal next year. Much of these mini-negotiating sessions this year (there were 3 previous ones earlier in the year in Bonn, Germany) focused on picking up on the failures of Copenhagen where numerous smaller contact groups worked to try to bridge the humongous differences of opinion that exist between different countries. Countries have realized that it now takes a steady step-by-step approach for success to occur. There is no “magic bullet” solution to derive the global deal that we all crave for.

Let me give a very brief overview of some of the key issues that were discussed.

Adaptation: Nature of institutional structures on coordinating adaptation efforts, strengthening international capacity building, knowledge sharing and risk management, financial support from developed countries in terms of percentage of GDP or other figures

Finance and technology: Commitment of developed countries to fast-start financing promised in Copenhagen, institutional structures to govern long-term financing, sources of funding including innovative means (ie. financial transactions levy), possible Technology Executive Committee under the UNFCCC and its role in tech transfer

Mitigation: “numbers” politics (targets, commitments, goals that can be translated into so called quantified emissions limitations and reduction objectives), differing compliance, reporting and verification mechanisms for different countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing nations and whether they get support from the developed world

Other issues that were considered include a so called “shared vision” which still elucidates the many differences in opinion on what constitutes a balanced deal and who should be responsible to do what. Legal issues and forestry’s role in mitigation were also discussed informally. Tianjin was also an important exercise in trust-building.

The tone of the conference was essential as many felt that only through the transparency of the process and the adherence to the original intentions of the Framework Convention can the negotiations as well as the larger multilateral process  succeed. One negative development was definitely the ongoing spat between the United States and China with regards to complaining about what each other were not doing. This is definitely not encouraging as the two countries are the largest two emitters of greenhouse gases, with their effective participation being so imperative to the entire process.

Will Cancun achieve some success in substantially moving the climate change issue forward? We certainly hope so!

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 5:01 am

    Hi I’m Meixian from NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication, writing an article on global effort to tackle climate change. Were you guys in Tianjin, China for the climate change conference?

    I also read that you guys will be going to Cancun, Mexico this November to December for the climate summit. I’m interested to ask you all a few questions so that I can also quote you in the article. If there is an email address or phone number I can contact, please let me know asap. You can contact me at

    As my article is due tomorrow (Thur, 14 Oct), I look forward to a speedy reply from you! Thanks!


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