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Climate Change

International Climate Talks On In Mexico

This year’s high-level United Nations climate meeting, the Conference of Parties (COP-16), has begun in Cancun, Mexico, with an estimated 200 nations sending representatives. It will run for two weeks, until December 10.

United Methodist Women partners in the global faith community are currently in Cancun. The World Council of Churches has a delegation of Presbyterians and Lutherans from the United States in attendance and Christian Aid and its ecumenical relief and development partners are playing a strong advocacy role. On November 30 local congregations came together for an interfaith gathering. A crowd of about 5,000 dressed in white offered a “Prayer for the Planet.”

While government officials and nongovernmental organizations alike had high hopes for the meeting in Copenhagen, much lower—and arguably more realistic—expectations are set for Cancun. Even before this conference started, officials and advocates set their sites on COP-17 in South Africa as the location where an actual agreement may be finalized.

Most of the world was shut out of the process used to produce the “Copenhagen Accord” in December 2009. The hope is that this kind of strong-armed and exclusionary tactic won’t be used again in Mexico. The United States is holding tough in its bargaining, which contributes to a stalemate atmosphere. Nonetheless, some progress is possible in Cancun. Two of the key issues to watch are the following:

Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Rigorous, binding targets should be set to keep the world below the tipping point scientists say is dangerous. The voluntary targets that individual countries offered as part of the Copenhagen Accord are not enough to prevent the most dangerous forms of climate change. The United States has not yet agreed to a meaningful, binding target for itself or for an international review system to make sure the world community is on track for achieving necessary cuts in emissions. 

International climate finance: Wealthy countries must contribute their fair share for emergency planning and long-term adaptation to climate change, and they must address energy poverty in vulnerable communities. Countries that have contributed the most to global warming have a moral obligation to solve this problem through curbing their emissions and contributing finances to help vulnerable communities adapt to the negative changes they have experienced. International funds need to be channeled in a way that is democratic, efficient and effective and that reflects the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable communities. An agreement in principle on a new fund would be an important step forward. However, the United States won’t support a new fund unless developing countries agree to adopt stringent emissions targets too.

More Information

  • Follow the official proceedings at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.
  • The Christian Aid blog describes what faith-based advocates are doing and thinking in Cancun. 
  • The Third World Network is covering the conference from the perspective of the Global South. Be sure to read “What to Expect in Cancun.”
  • Take action in the U.S. at the 1Sky website.
  • Contact Esmeralda V. Brown, Women’s Division Executive for U.N. Affairs, at EBrown@unitedmethodistwomen.org.
Last Updated: 12/03/2010

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