Cutting carbon emissions
Scores of rich countries made pledges over the past year to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 under the Copenhagen accord but they were not incorporated in the official UN process. Cancún now formally puts those pledges into UN documentation, although they may increase or decrease in future. For the first time, developing countries also agreed to look at how they can cut emissions in the future – but did not make specific pledges.
Crucially however, none of the cuts are legally binding, and analysis suggests the pledges would lead to a 3.2C rise in temperatures – far higher than the 2C generally considered to be a level of "safe" warming.
A new climate green fund was agreed at Cancún to transfer money from the developed to developing world to tackle the impacts of climate change. Poorer countries saw this as a success because they will outnumber rich countries on a 'transitional committee' for the fund, which is due to be set up in 2011. But no figure was put on how much money will go into it.
Separately, ministers repeated their political promise made last year at Copenhagen to raise 0bn (£63bn) in climate aid by 2020, starting with bn (£19bn) by 2012 for "fast track" financing. This headline-grabbing promise, however, is not part of the UN process and is merely an aspiration of rich countries.
Formal backing was given for the UN's deforestation scheme, Redd (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), under which rich countries pay poorer nations not to chop down forests and so lock away carbon emissions. But details on when and exactly what form the scheme will take – particularly whether developed countries will be able to use it to "offset" their emissions rather than make cuts at home – are still vague.
Decisions on the future of the Kyoto protocol, the current international treaty binding rich countries to cut emissions, were effectively deferred until South Africa next year. Whether countries will sign up for a second "commitment period" to cuts beyond 2012 remains to be seen.
In addition, decisions on the role that the protocol will play in an ultimate future legal document that binds the world's countries to emissions cuts – the "holy grail" of the UN negotiations - were delayed.
The idea of transferring knowledge of clean technology between countries was backed at Cancún. A technology executive committee and a climate technology centre and network are to be set up, but there are no details on the money, where they will be based, when or by whom.
Countries agreed to the principle of having their emissions cuts inspected. Such "monitoring, reporting and verification" will depend on the size of the country's economy, though who will carry out the inspections – the country itself, the UN or another body – was not specified.
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