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Cancuún México 29 de noviembre - 10 de diciembre 
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A Mexican triumph of diplomacy

Dean Bilek

Cancun can!, chanted the climate change activists in the lobby at the Moon Palace resort, where the world's much-maligned climate negotiators gathered to try to fix the mess created by last year's last-minute, last-ditch Copenhagen Accord.

Many thought that the accord, with its loose, pledge and review provisions and insufficient emissions reduction targets, meant the end of the international climate change regime - and multilateralism - as we knew it. But the world's governments have now responded in Cancun, and we might be on the road to something much better.

At last, the world has agreed to try to keep global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a commitment to look at whether 1.5°C is a safer alternative on the basis of new, improved science in 2015. We agreed that Copenhagen's emissions targets are insufficient, and outlined a process to analyse and make them more ambitious.

A new green climate fund has been established to channel finance - hopefully US$100 billion ($131 billion) a year by 2020 - to finance emissions reductions and adaptation by the world's most vulnerable countries to the climate impacts we know will intensify. We have paved the way for the development of national policies to take advantage of new capital flows for forest protection and reduced carbon emissions from deforestation.

And the overall agreement keeps the Kyoto protocol alive, but only just - next year's Conference of Parties in Durban, South Africa, is the last chance to agree a new round of binding emissions reduction commitments from industrialised countries when the current targets expire at the end of 2012.

Finding a deal in today's climate negotiations is no easy feat given the extraordinary diversity of national interests and priorities, varying from the Gulf state oil producers to the tiny, low-lying atoll countries out in the middle of the Pacific.

Copenhagen was marked by acrimony and dissent, with tears and wild interventions portraying a weak and poorly drafted agreement, brokered by leaders of the world's biggest emitters. The deal was later rejected by a number of countries left out of the room.

Cancun was different. There were tears at the end, but they captured a widespread relief that three years of talking had at last produced something worthwhile.

Looking back, the reasons for this comparative success are very clear. Mexico, which hosted the meeting, performed superbly. Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and her impressive team of diplomats listened and listened and listened. They spent a whole year listening. And by this simple act, they helped rebuild the trust and spirit of compromise that had been shattered in Copenhagen.

Some important questions still remain on the table. But Cancun was an extraordinary event in climate diplomacy. One moment will stick with me from that small room: Mexico's expert deal-broker Luis Alfonso de Alba defused a particularly tense moment with the line "whether we agree or not, every concern is legitimate".

It is exactly this sentiment which produced the breakthrough in Cancun. May every future climate negotiation be as gracious and fruitful as this one.

The writer is a former Australian diplomat, who advised the delegation of Republic of the Marshall Islands at Cancun.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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