Cancun Climate Change Summit Ends in Agreement of Debatable Value

Not everyone thinks this is much of a step forward

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The United Nations climate change summit in Cancun came to a close this weekend. The result: an agreement including a plan to generate $100 billion by 2020 through a green climate fund to help protect poor countries from the effects of global warming, as well as a consensus that future increases in temperature should be capped at 2 degrees Celsius, Press Association's Emily Beament reports.

Though the two week conference decidedly accomplished more than the group's meeting last year in Copenhagen, reviews are mixed as to whether the decisions made in Mexico should really be considered a success.

  • It's Better Than Nothing  Acknowledging that actions must be taken in order to preserve the environment is the first step to significant change. Julian Hunt at The Australian regards the decisions made in Cancun as "a turning point" and argues:
While the Cancun accord has its weaknesses, it is much better than no deal at all. And we must be realistic: given the massively wide range of political, economic and technical approaches to climate-change policy across the world, it may now be impossible to frame a much stronger international agreement that would satisfy governments, businesses and civil society groups.
  • Does Anyone Really Care About The Environment?  This is the question on David Corn's mind in the wake of the Cancun conference. The Politics Daily columnist thinks the meager agreements made at the climate change summit suggest that the potential conflict and destruction to the environment caused by climate change "has become largely a ho-hum matter. Look at the tepid response to (and the tepid action of) the recent U.N. climate summit that concluded a few days ago in Cancun. Far more many people can tell you what happened with Bristol Palin on 'Dancing with the Stars' than what transpired in the conference centers of Cancun." Corn predicts that without force from Obama, environmentalists won't be able push clean energy legislation through the next Congress, making the goals set out by the Cancun accords unenforceable.
  • Not Enough to Fix the Coming Climate Change  After an overview of the current state of the global environment--this decade being the warmest ever and the devastating forest fires and floods that have ensued from such extreme temperatures, for example--the accomplishments of the Cancun meeting quickly become insignificant, argue the editors at The Guardian. "Cancun may seem significant and even hopeful now," they conclude. "Soon it will look more like another opportunity missed."
  • Bureaucracy and Skeptics Win  Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest, suggests that the Cancun accord accomplished more for global bureaucracy than the global environment. "Next to the bureaucrats and the White House, the real winners are the climate change skeptics," he surmises. "If you think that climate change is a myth or a naturally occurring phenomenon, Cancun helped you out. The UN process of endlessly negotiating a treaty which will either be so weak it is pointless or so controversial the US Senate will never ratify it (and will quite possibly be both) consumes time, money, energy and political capital that would otherwise go towards green efforts that might actually accomplish something."
  • 'A Temporary Triumph'  Like Mead, Michael Rozeff is skeptical of individual governments' real motivations for the Cancun agreement (for example: perhaps it is"to direct attention away from the problems caused by governments themselves all over this world"). At the Lew Rockwell blog, Rozeff complains "the climate change agreement is a temporary triumph of dysfunctional governments worldwide, statism, power-seeking globalcrats, greens, and money-seeking 'scientists.' It's a triumph of lies made to seem as reality."
  • More 'Vague Promises' Than Legally Binding Commitments  Much of the news surrounding the Cancun accord resembles Hunt's take in The Australian--that it is a small move but better than no move at all. Reason's Ronald Bailey, though, refers to this presentation of the decision as "spinning," and clarifies that no country left the conference legally committed to preventing climate change. "Big developing country emitters like China and India still refused to agree to any legally binding limits on their emissions. Of course, neither did the developed countries."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.