Making progress again at last!

Report on the Climate Conference in Cancún, Mexico,
6-12 December 2010
Josef Göppel, Member of the German Bundestag

There were sighs of relief at 3.30 on Saturday morning. The final documents of the Cancún Conference had been agreed without vetoes from China and the USA. The Mexican conference president, Patricia Espinosa, announced that a consensus had been reached, although Bolivia had held out for clearer targets to the very end. Hav-ing kept the conference in suspense for two weeks with its categorical rejection of further commitments, Japan too had backed down. The target of limiting the rise in the Earth’s temperature to two degrees was adopted. However, the reductions actu-ally pledged by the individual states would result in the temperature rising by three degrees. In other words, there is still a tremendous amount to be done! Nevertheless, the reductions of 25-40 % by 2020 to which the industrialised countries committed themselves constitute real progress. The European Union’s disgraceful insistence on a 20 % reduction by 2020 has therefore been consigned to the history books. The EU’s inability to pledge a 30 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, even though it had already succeeded in cutting them 17.3 % by 2010, was undoubtedly one of the scandals of this conference.

The German Federal Environment Minister, Norbert Röttgen, had taken ‘climate pro-tection as an opportunity’ as the motto for the speech he delivered. He summarised the German attitude by saying that the most successful economies would be those that converted to a zero-carbon economy with the greatest rapidity and determina-tion. The German reduction target of 40 % by 2020 with no ifs and buts and the con-crete spending package pledged for forest protection made a big impression. The spokesman from Bangladesh described Germany as the market leader in climate protection. However, the next debate is already coming into view on the horizon. The South African environment minister demanded that new jobs should not just be created in the northern hemisphere.
The German chief negotiator Carsten Sach was ‘very satisfied’ at the close. With a 60-member delegation, Germany was represented on all the working groups and took on a role forcing the pace in all the negotiations on individual issues. The brief-ings at seven o’clock each morning ensured all the delegation members were kept fully informed and enabled them to follow a clear strategic direction. Many delegates from other countries looked to Germany. The great confidence shown in the Ger-mans was sometimes embarrassing; it is a huge responsibility for our country.
Maybe it was the holiday mood in Cancún that encouraged some of the delegations to show flexibility in the end. Their bargaining positions had obviously been frozen rigid by the icy, driving snow in Copenhagen a year earlier.

Read the full report with pictures.