After a number of years working in and around the UN climate negotiations, Cancun was a real milestone in terms of both what was agreed and what it represents. You may have seen the pictures of Ministers and negotiators giving a standing ovation to Mexican Foreign Minister Espinosa late on the final evening of discussions. This was an emotional response to the vital role that she and her colleagues played in shepherding the negotiations to a successful conclusion and sheer relief that we had the process back on track. To be honest, the outcome was better than I expected before we arrived – we took significant steps towards a global legal framework across the range of issues.
The progress we made includes agreement that global emissions should peak as soon as possible, and a commitment from developing countries to reduce their emissions from business as usual. Equally important was agreement on a process to review the pledges all countries have made, and on how we measure and verify countries’ emissions – vital if we’re to keep on track for limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees. We also made progress in setting up the process to deliver the finance that developing countries need both to reduce their own emissions, and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. My judgement is that together this represents the most significant package since Kyoto – hence the ovation on the final night.
However, we’re far from home and dry in terms of reaching a legal treaty. We only narrowly avoided the future of the Kyoto Protocol derailing the negotiations in Cancun, and this will be a central issue again over the year ahead. We and our European colleagues are in close discussion about how best to move these discussions forward to ensure that we continue to make progress over time toward a legal treaty.
Outside the negotiations, we are working with DFID, the Foreign Office and Defra to ensure that the £2.9bn committed for international climate finance over the CSR period delivers the most benefit. We have the opportunity through both bilateral projects and contributing to multilateral funds to make a real difference to developing countries’ efforts to tackle climate change. Apart from our direct financial contributions, the UK is well placed to help in this – our approach to reducing our own emissions means that in Government and our private sector we have a lot of expertise that we can share with others. My teams work with a range of people in and outside Government to ensure that we’re able to share that knowledge where it can have the most impact.
Looking ahead, I’m confident that the world will reach a legal treaty on climate change – it’s the only way of ensuring that we take action ambitious enough to meet the 2 degree target. It might take a little longer to get there, but Cancun demonstrated that there is the appetite and the process to make it happen. In the meantime we already have many of the elements in place to understand where we are in relation to 2 degrees, and to track our progress on delivering it.