Agreements were made. This is important. The process did not fail and the UNFCCC will continue in the long term quest to achieve internationally binding targets.
I have seen several achievements consistently mentioned in the media. (1) Commitments made by global economies for 2020 were recognized/the Copenhagen Accord was adopted, (2) a global environmental fund was established, and (3) an agreement was reached on REDD+, improving protection of tropical forests. See What happened (and why): an assessment of the Cancun Agreements, by Robert Stavins from grist.org for a great summary of achievements.
There are a few important issues which have not been as readily reported…
Indigenous People and REDD+: While Bolivia was the only state to object to REDD+ there were many interest groups protesting the language of the REDD+ agreement. In fact, most protests regarding COP 16 were not related to the overall lack of binding commitments, but related to a specific provision in the REDD+ agreement regarding land tenure. Many indigenous groups worried that the new agreement, which requires monitoring and verification would affect their ability to continue their livihoods on lands that they have lived on for centuries but don’t actually ‘own.’ According to a popularly circulated pamphlet at COP 16 “Why REDD is Wrong,” “Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some aspect of their livelihoods, but only about 9 percent of the world’s forests are legally owned by forest-dependent and Indigenous communities. People without land rights have no legal power to influence REDD projects.” There are other advocates who say that REDD+ agreements aren’t planned for any regions where these specific protestors are from.
Advocates of REDD also point to the fact that the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention is the first document “Taking note of relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry: The loophole continues. During an earlier blog, I mentioned that there are several options on the table to decide how to account for forest management emissions during the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol including… (1) Tuvalu proposed text to use the first commitment period as a mandatory historical baseline. (2) The Africa Group proposed a compromise text which combines historical baselines with projected baselines and (3) Developed countries propose a continuation of voluntary accounting.
Although not a surprise, it seems the developing countries “won” and now can set their own reference levels…The current text “Requests each Annex I Party to submit to the secretariat, by 28 February 2011, information on the forest management reference level.”
The Global Environmental Fund: While the fund has targets of over a 100 billion per year, many developing countries have not been receiving money already promised by developed countries. The World Bank will be the trustee for this fund, but the World Bank doesn’t have the best track record at delivering money in an efficient manner (see blog post President from Guyana wants his money).