The sixteenth annual UN climate treaty negotiations are underway in Cancun, Mexico, where my colleague Joyce Wong and I are looking for insights on how business can take the lead ahead of slow-moving governments. We’re also investigating topics like how companies can best adapt to climate change and motivate people for more climate sustainable consumption.
We’ve been saying for some time that, while the international negotiations don’t directly impact companies, they have a huge indirect effect in that they guide countries’ national and local policies for energy, transportation, and land use. The overall impact of more effective climate policies should be overwhelmingly positive, because it will bring about more regulatory certainty and transparency that enable companies to productively invest in new technologies (not to mention avert potentially dangerous global change). But because climate policy is all encompassing, even positive developments will be disruptive, so it pays to pay attention.
At this point in the talks, there are clear unresolved issues, which include: (1) Finding agreed-upon principles and steps that will guide mitigation efforts following 2012, (2) Determining accountability for implementation of near-term mitigation targets and actions by the more than 70 countries making commitments in the Copenhagen Accord, and (3) Mobilizing the US$30 billion of long-term finance that countries have pledged.
However, as UN’s new climate chief, Christiana Figueras, has warned us, Cancun won’t have a “big bang” result. Decisions that are essential to the process—such as transparency protocols, a “shared vision" of collective emissions goals, and an agreement’s legal details—are likely a year or two off.
Here is what we’ll see if things go as expected over the next few weeks:
- Country pledges in the Copenhagen Accord will be confirmed, with enhanced detail on key pieces of the spirit of the agreement and how countries will follow through, particularly on the funding pledge
- An agriculture package launched, building on recent advances in forest protection mechanism and the already finished concise text for the agricultural sector
- More agreement on handling of green-technology transfers
- More clarity on the future of the climate negotiations through the UN; that is, whether and how the traditional, 200-country consensus approach, the recent movement with the Copenhagen Accord to focus on a small number of major emitters, and/or the private sector will create the most effective environments for global climate action going forward
What does this mean for business? I’ll cover that in detail in my next post. But I’ll give you a hint—it’s similar to what we said a year ago: For real results, look beyond Copenhagen Cancun.