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Looking Back at Cancun

The climate talks in Cancun are over, and it's time to look at the big picture. Was it a success? One of our Deutsche Welle reporters, Torsten Schäfer, covered the summit and wrote a commentary after it was over. We're going to share it with you in three parts. So read along and let us know what you think!

Cancun: A Fragile Framework

In the end, the unexpected last-minute success at Cancun saved multilateralism and renewed international trust in UN-led negotiations. Still, much work is left to be done when it comes to fighting climate change. It's up to the EU to take charge, but first it has to find its voice again.

Expectations were modest at best going into Cancun–some experts even predicted a complete disaster. Despite the odds, negotiators were able to come up with a tangible framework. Their basic agreement is admittedly fragile and clouded by uncertainty. But still, international leaders created a foundation to build upon at the next climate talks in Durban. In Cancun, it wasn't the end product that was important but rather the process itself. The UN will continue to lead climate treaty negotiations–as long as each of the 194 participating countries is willing to put aside differences and forge a common climate policy. So that's how Cancun saved multilateralism, which is essential to international diplomacy and global climate policy.

That positive progress was sorely needed, especially after the complete failure in Copenhagen last year. Many people lost all faith in the concept of joint climate policy and in the UN as a whole. So Cancun was an important test of the UN's ability to win back trust and make some sort of progress before Durban. But environmental officials did one better: not only did they restore the international community's trust (thanks also in part to the UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya), but they also managed to find common ground on a series of concepts. Still, many questions remain unanswered–and that's one of Cancun's biggest shortcomings.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow….


December 14, 2010