“Cancun was another failure of those responsible for causing climate change to agree to do what ethics and justice require of them.”
by Donald A. Brown
Climate Ethics, December 24, 2011
This post will explain that although some hope for a global solution to climate change is still alive due to decisions adopted in Cancun, one must see Cancun in the context of a twenty-year failed attempt to prevent dangerous climate change and from that standpoint Cancun must be seen as another troubling ethical failure of those most responsible for climate change. Twenty years of failure to achieve a global solution to climate change is a tragedy because each year when there has been a failure to commit to adequately reduce greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions has made it more difficult in subsequent years to get on a ghg emissions reduction pathway capable of preventing serious climate change.
For some, the modest progress in Cancun toward a global approach to climate change has been seen as a positive step forward. This is so because many thought that the UNFCCC architecture for a global solution to climate change was in jeopardy of completely unraveling before Cancun; a legal structure that had been gradually been put into place since 1990 when negotiations on a global solution to climate change began. Yet, this post will argue that Cancun must be seen in the context of what has failed to happen in the last twenty years on climate change and not only on the basis of the very limited positive steps made in Cancun.
To many others, Cancun was another tragic lost opportunity for the international community to prevent dangerous climate change as well as a the most recent in a series of moral failures of those most responsible for climate change to commit to steps necessary to protect those who are most vulnerable to climate change’s harshest impacts. One observer of Cancun concluded, for instance, that:
The Cancun Agreements of the 2010 UN Climate Summit do not represent a success for multilateralism; neither do they put the world on a safe climate pathway that science demands, and far less to a just and equitable transition towards a sustainable model of development. They represent a victory for big polluters and Northern elites that wish to continue with business-as-usual.