The UN conference on climate change, held in Cancun, Mexico, was "not the end, but a new beginning”, according to one diplomat attending.
Political differences between major polluters, as well as developed and developing nations, continued to dominate the issue of global warming, but while the agreements reached were relatively modest, they signalled a growing consensus that the situation is urgent enough to make nations’ domestic concerns a secondary issue.
The conference agreed to set up a $100 billion fund to help poorer countries deal with climate change, and to accelerate efforts to preserve tropical forests and develop clean energy technology. Whether the 1997 Kyoto Protocol still has a life was left to the next conference, to be held in South Africa next November.
Where that $100 billion will come from is yet unknown, and Greenpeace said more could have been accomplished but for the ‘negative” influence of Russia, Japan and the United States. The first two were "unhelpful” in their opposition to continuing Kyoto (which requires wealthier countries to limit their carbon emissions), while the US "watered down several important areas of agreement and put a successful outcome in doubt”. America’s recent lurch to the right politically has raised fears that Washington is now more likely to cave in to wealthy industrial interests.
Bolivia, the leading dissenter at the Cancun talks, claimed richer nations had "bullied and cajoled” poorer countries into accepting their terms, and that the emissions reductions adopted would not be enough to save the most vulnerable nations from disaster.