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Highlights from COP-16 in Cancun, Mexico
By Tracey Osborne | January 10, 2011
The 16th UN climate change negotiation (COP-16) was held in Cancun, Mexico at the end of 2010. While not as well publicized as COP-15 in Copenhagen, and attended by fewer heads of state, COP-16 resulted in a number of concrete agreements worth acknowledging. Chaired by Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinoza, the Cancun negotiations resulted in the creation of key mechanisms: The Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world; research centers to support technology transfer; a framework for understanding climate impacts and adaptation priorities; and rules governing a forestry-based mitigation strategy that pays landowners to keep forests intact, known as REDD.
In attendance from the University of Arizona were Diana Liverman, Co-Director of the Institute of the Environment, and Tracey Osborne, Assistant Professor in the School of Geography and Development. Both presented on a panel sponsored by the Mexican Government to showcase international research with relevance to Mexico. Liverman presented information on U.S. climate choices with implications for Mexico as well as results of a co-authored paper on the world at 4 degrees published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. Osborne based her talk on research pertaining to the social dimension of carbon forestry in Chiapas, Mexico and discussed implications for avoided deforestation mechanism, REDD. The event was highlighted on the Mexican Government’s COP website.
Diana Liverman also gave talks in side events that highlighted climate change and food security including the launch of a new international program CCAFS (http://www.ccafs.cgiar.org/).
Days of intense negotiations culminated in an all-night session, which produced what is being referred to as the Cancun Agreements. While at various moments throughout the negotiations there were issues that threatened to derail the process, at the 11th hour, 193 countries agreed to create a number of initiatives that would include the participation of developing countries in more central ways. The accord included a number of key features of particular relevance to some of the work being carried out at the University of Arizona.
- Establishment of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, which will seek to understand climate change impacts at the national and regional levels and identify adaptation priorities.This will require research and engagement with stakeholders particularly in developing countries. University of Arizona has agreed to host, with ASU, the next international scientific conference on adaptation to climate change in June 2012 with co-sponsorship by several UN agencies negotiated in the corridors in Cancun.
- Agreement that developing countries will mitigate climate change as nationally appropriate on a voluntary basis.This will require the establishment of national registries, and research on appropriate mitigation actions for low carbon development in the developing world.
- Inclusion of forest conservation and management as a mitigation strategy by fostering policies and incentives for REDD+. REDD signifies Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in developing countries, and the plus refers to conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of carbon stocks. Research on the drivers of deforestation nationally and sub-nationally, issues of forest governance, land tenure, and the effective participation of stakeholders and forest communities will be critical.
- The design and implementation of a Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. The Green Fund will be managed by the World Bank on an interim basis for 3 years. In this regard, research addressing the effectiveness and governance of various financial mechanisms would be valuable.
- Establishment of a Technology Mechanism to facilitate technology transfer, particularly the transfer of environmentally sustainable technologies to the developing world in support of efforts toward low carbon development. U of A research on renewable and appropriate technology in the developing world context could play an important role in supporting these efforts.
The Mexicans were generally congratulated for their diplomatic skills during COP-16, with a number of UA-Mexican collaborators and colleagues involved in the organization and activities of COP-16. The success of the meeting provides a strong basis for research collaborations with Mexico. The next COP will be held in Durban, South Africa in December 2011.