22nd Oct 2016

Rocky first week augurs badly for Cancun outcome

  • Ministers are scheduled to meet for the first time at the Cancun talks this Sunday (Photo: Friends of the Earth International)

As UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, near the half-way mark, the European Commission has conceded that progress so far has been slow, with several major hiccups already in the first week.

"After the encouraging start ... there was this awaking that brought clear evidence that things are progressing quite slowly," the commission's climate spokeswoman, Maria Kokkonen, said during a regular press briefing in Brussels on Friday (3 December).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Politicians have worked hard to downplay expectations after last year's fiasco in Copenhagen, but EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard is among those to have said a poor outcome at the Mexico talks (29 Nov - 10 Dec) could spell the end for the UN negotiating process.

Two sets of parallel talks are taking place at the same time: discussions to secure a global deal on cutting carbon emissions, together with negotiations to continue the Kyoto Protocol, a smaller agreement that currently binds richer states to cut emissions up to 2012.

Japan's surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would not go ahead with a second commitment period (post-2012) under the Kyoto protocol greatly alarmed developing nations. The widely criticised protocol, which is ignored by the US, is still considered better than nothing by the Group of 77 poorer states.

Since then, the EU has refused to be drawn on the consequences of the Japanese announcement. "It's all strategy, a power game," said one official, adding that Europe was ready to sign up "on condition that others do so as well and that the weaknesses in the protocol are addressed."

Further disquiet came later on Tuesday when the EU's chief negotiator said short-term funding to help developing nations fight climate change would include roughly 50 percent in loans.

Development NGOs slammed the move as saddling poorer nations with even greater debt, prompting the EU to clarify its position, insisting that the poorest nations would still receive up to 75 percent of the money in the form of grants. But wrangling over the 'fast-start' funding has damaged relations between the two sides, say analysts.

In an apparent effort to pick up the pace of talks and put these hiccups behind them, the Mexican hosts have convened a meeting of ministers for this Sunday, two days ahead of the formal start of ministerial negotiations.

Europe's position is complicated by having two representatives at the table during the crucial second-half of the talks. Sources close to the negotiations suggest Flemish minister for the environment Joke Schauvliege may let Ms Hedegaard do the bulk of the talking however. "She's the one with the experience," said the contact. "She knows the other negotiators and they know her."

Belgian media suggest a third European figure, Belgian federal minister for climate and energy Paul Magnette, may also be flying out to the negotiations this weekend, potentially adding a further dynamic to the already complicated situation. Belgium currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

Despite signs of little progress so far, some analysts remain optimistic that areas of success can be achieved this year, increasing the possibility of a broader legally binding deal in South Africa in 2012.

"Everyone keeps their cards close to their chests in week one," German Marshall Fund expert, Thomas Legge, said by phone from the Cancun meeting. "There are grounds for a few agreements, but at this stage parties are holding off on these as part of negotiations for later on."


A world without waste

A garbage crisis in Naples, Italy, gave birth to the "zero waste" movement, but is the rest of Europe brave enough to change the way it thinks about trash?

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity