First global pact to cut carbon agreed
Historic deal will set up €72bn 'green fund'
Published 12/12/2010 | 05:00
Delegates from 193 countries have agreed in Mexico on a plan to cut carbon emissions and set up a fund to help developing countries tackle climate change as part of an "historic" deal.
To rapturous applause, they signed the first truly global climate change agreement after tortuous all-night talks in Cancun.
The negotiations repeatedly came close to collapsing as various countries tabled objections. Eventually only Bolivia refused to accept the deal, on the grounds that it would not be enough to end global warming, which it described as "tantamount to genocide".
But as exhausted delegates became impatient, the protests of the South American country were swept aside. Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican foreign secretary who presided over the talks, gavelled through the deal in the early hours of yesterday morning. Her action was greeted with a standing ovation as relief swept through the conference hall after two weeks of tense negotiating. The Indian environment minister described her as "a goddess" for her achievement.
The United Nations has been trying to achieve a deal on climate change for more than 15 years but found it impossible to get all members to agree. Last year in Copenhagen, the talks came close to collapse, embarrassing world leaders who had jetted in to "save the planet". This time expectations were kept deliberately low for fear of killing off the process. The new deal falls far short of what some scientists and environmentalists claim is needed to stop catastrophic global warming. But it represents a significant step towards the goal of a legally binding treaty aimed at preventing temperatures rising more than 2C (3.6F) this century.
For the first time, all countries are committed to cutting carbon emissions. Rich nations also have to pay a total of €72bn annually from 2020 into a "green fund" to help poor countries adapt to floods and droughts. The money will also help developing countries, including China and India, switch to renewable energy sources. It has not been decided how the money will be raised, although preferred options are a new tax on aviation or shipping, or increased carbon taxes more generally.
The UK is committed to taking the lead by cutting its emissions by 34 per cent by 2020. That target will increase to 42 per cent as soon as a legally binding global deal is achieved.
Environmental groups said the targets needed to be tougher. "Cancun may have saved the process but it did not yet save the climate," said Wendel Trio, of Greenpeace.