David Sweet

It was not that long ago that many were proclaiming the death of climate change policy in light of the lack of progress in Copenhagen and the collapse of the prospect for climate change legislation in the United States. Given the continued weakness of the global economy, investments in clean energy have faced additional challenges. Complicating matters even further, crude oil prices have been moving up steadily to $100 per barrel, and it will not take much in the way of a global threat or supply disruption to trigger another price spike – which would continue to further suffocate a possible recovery in the sputtering economies.

But, just when you thought that progress on climate change was either dead or hopelessly stalled, along come positive signals from the recently concluded COP 16 negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. This is in marked contrast to 2009 and COP 15 in Copenhagen, where many thought there was ‘something rotten in Denmark’ based on the lack of real progress on climate goals and objectives.

Some of the key points of the ‘Cancun Agreements’ include: agreement on a two-degree Celsius target for temperature rise; greater emphasis on monitoring, reporting and verification; greater emphasis on adaptation; formalizing the fast start and long-term finance mechanisms and the establishment of new climate finance bodies; and greater emphasis on the use of technology to combat climate change. While there was no agreement on binding commitments for carbon dioxide reductions – and the two-degree temperature target is widely held to be overly optimistic given the reductions that have been pledged – the emphasis on technology, funding mechanisms and public-private partnerships that will deliver $100 billion of long-term financing are all positive indicators for decentralized energy.

WADE has been working successfully in China on a project under the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, a public-private partnership that stresses voluntary emission reductions through education, outreach and technology transfer. We have seen first hand that these can be also be effective means for producing long-term change in business operations and help drive investments that improve energy efficiency and the environment.

With all due respect to the country music star Toby Keith, it looks like what happened in Mexico in 2010 will not stay in Mexico, but rather will have repercussions far beyond its borders. While it is still uncertain, and at this point highly doubtful, whether there will be a second round of Kyoto Protocol commitments post-2012, the confidence generated in Cancun for the climate change process and the establishment of tangible mechanisms for dealing with climate change are positive signposts that action on climate change is alive and well.

David Sweet
Executive Director, WADE


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