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Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: John Podesta and Andrew Light on Finalized “Cancun Agreements”
Press Statement

STATEMENT: John Podesta and Andrew Light on Finalized “Cancun Agreements”

Statement from John D. Podesta and Andrew Light on the “Cancun Agreements” finalized this morning at the 2010 UN Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico.

John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and Co-Chair of the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, said: 

"Early this morning in Cancun, Mexico the world’s nations finally agreed to move forward on a substantive agreement on reducing carbon emissions from deforestation as part of a balanced package of other decision in the “Cancun Agreements." This is a big win for all of us who have been arguing that this is the most efficient way to move forward with fighting climate change in the near term and absolutely essential as a means to protect biodiversity and advance global conservation goals.

Global emissions from deforestation are equal to total emission from the transportation sector. Those who may dismiss the decision on forestry in the Cancun Agreements as a small step forward do not have a proper appreciation that global warming simply cannot be solved without attention to the problem of deforestation.

After committing $1 billion last year in Copenhagen to fund the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD programs, the United States had already joined other countries such as Norway in showing leadership on this issue. But the many different global efforts to make progress on reducing emissions from deforestation need coherence to ensure our ability to spend these dollars wisely to ensure that programs work. The Cancun Agreements do just that while providing guidelines to balance the interests of indigenous peoples with the needs for development in poor countries.

I want to commend Todd Stern and the U.S. negotiating team for the leadership, dedication and spirit of compromise they showed these past two weeks in helping to formulate and broker these agreements. At the end of the day an international system for reducing emissions from deforestation and protecting our global forest resources is critical to U.S. interests.

REDD strengthens U.S. national security by reducing international instability, helps alleviate global poverty, and conserves priceless biodiversity. This agreement shows that developing countries are taking action on climate change, and that the U.S. stands ready to help them. But we also need stronger action to succeed. We must cut deforestation globally by half by the end of 2020 and this will require renewed leadership next year in Durban, South Africa and beyond. As the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests argues, to have a chance at holding temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels we must cut deforestation globally by half by 2020."

Andrew Light, Senior Fellow and Director of International Climate Policy at the Center for American Progress said:

"The consensus reached this morning to forge the Cancun Agreements is a critical step forward in forging an effective global compact to fight global warming. The Cancun Agreements do not solve the problem, and some of the hardest issues are still waiting to be addressed. But in a relatively short time for this process the parties have finally come together on a balanced package of agreements on forestry, technology transfer, climate finance and other issues that will be the basis for progress moving forward.

Achieving these agreements vindicates for now the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which had been on life support for a number of years for failing to negotiate through its own consensus process to move an agreement out of the body. Last year, even though over a hundred world leaders gathered together in Denmark to forge the Copenhagen Accord—the first significant step forward on a climate agreement since the Kyoto Protocol—the UNFCCC could not seal the deal because five countries exercised their effective veto to block the accord as an official decision of the UNFCCC. This left the agreement in limbo throughout the year.

This year two of the same group of naysayers, Cuba and Bolivia, announced their intention last night to derail the Cancun meeting. The summit’s chair, Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, showed tremendous leadership throughout the two weeks in shepherding through these agreements, including resolve we have not seen in the history of this process by finally standing up to these bullies. As she put it in the final show down with Bolivia, “consensus does not mean that one country has the right to veto” everyone else. Espinosa may very well have started a process of reform at this meeting which could bring the UNFCCC closer to fulfilling the mandate that we all desperately need it to achieve.

The Cancun Agreements succeed in taking the hard-fought six pages of the Copenhagen Accord and fleshing them out into 30 pages of substance which could help to deliver on what we need most: a global climate agreement that includes all of the world’s major polluters, regardless of their economic history, and launches us on a path to clean energy prosperity."

Andrew Light is in Cancun and is available for comment at [email protected].