COP16 Kicks Off with Low Expectations, Cautious Optimism

COP16 Kicks Off with Low Expectations, Cautious Optimism

Image CC licensed by Flicker user UN Climate Talks

As no doubt most people are aware, the recent international climate change negotiations in Cancun (COP16) kicked off Monday and will continue through to Friday, Dec. 10. As someone who is now attending their fourth year and experienced the highs and lows in Copenhagen, this year's conference definitely has a different feel, and it's not just the warm weather.

Tuesday saw the start of some of the main meeting groups, namely SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) and SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation). In particular, issues around technology and intellectual property rights (IPR), standardized baselines and carbon capture and storage (CCS) were discussed with relevant informal and formal contact groups set up to feedback later in the week. 

In addition, several statements made by countries during these meetings noted that although the process is undoubtedly an 'intergovernmental' one, that all stakeholders are important to the process. These comments are definitely reassuring for someone from the business community who is keen to see regulatory clarity emerge out of these negotiations in key areas that will facilitate the flow of private sector finance.

COP16 Coverage at this year's hosts, the Mexican government has gone all out to develop an atmosphere of communication and inclusion both during and in the run-up to the negotiations, and this can be clearly felt. The tone (albeit early in the process) is one of cautious optimism that the negotiations could hopefully deliver progress in some key areas. However, pretty much everyone is of the view that Cancun will not ultimately result in an overarching agreement on climate change, but positive in-roads could definitely be made.

Of particular interest was the Q&A side event with the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board (CDM EB). The CDM EB provided feedback to a packed house on their performance in 2010. Despite the well-documented delays and challenges with the new registration and issuance procedures, many of the trade associations communicated that in the last few weeks they had started to see improvements in the functioning of the CDM EB.

Although there is a well recognized need for further CDM reform, the possibility that the recent changes implemented by the CDM EB may just be starting to take effect in reducing the backlog of projects is definitely music to the ears of the carbon market.

From here on in the dialogue and debate will be fast and furious and with 20+ heads of state due to arrive next week, it will no doubt develop to a crescendo. What is key to these negotiations delivering a meaningful outcome is that countries and delegations stay focused on the main issues and adopt a spirit of compromise to ensure that finding a solution to climate change is the main priority and not political conjecture.

Image CC licensed by Flicker user UN Climate Talks.