The sixteenth climate conference of the UN started today in Cancun, Mexico. The conference has drawn very little media attention, and few Wageningen scientists are attending. Dr. Kristine Kern, associate professor of Environmental Policy, explains why.
Why has there been so little attention for this conference?
'Last year's Copenhagen conference got a lot of publicity and expectations ran very high. But it turned out to be a failure, maybe because of this high pressure. The UN now needs results and less negative publicity. But more importantly, the financial crisis has driven climate change off the agenda in many countries.'
Are you optimistic about Mexico?
'No, the situation seems to be worse than last year. The USA plays a crucial role in these conferences, but there is little attention for the conference there. In the New York Times, for example, only a few articles on climate change have been published recently. If the USA does not commit to binding targets, then China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, will not change its position either.'
Can we expect any results?
'There may be some improvement on some issues. For example, preventing deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (http://www.un-redd.org/). Consensus is close. The EU has already made promises concerning funding, but fulfilling them may become a problem because of the financial crisis.'
Is this the last chance for a new global climate agreement?
'The Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012, and this is why some call Cancun the last chance for a new global agreement. It is very difficult, however, to find a consensus among around 190 countries. An alternative is that smaller groups, such as the G20, reach a consensus. The G20 includes the biggest emitters. So negotiations there may be more effective.'
Why are you not attending?
'I would like to attend, but it is time-consuming and requires financial resources. And it generates even more greenhouse gasses.'