The latest round in the global fight against climate change is set to begin with United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.
While last year’s high-profile Copenhagen conference originally aimed to secure a full legally-binding deal on cutting emissions and providing funding for poor countries to cope with climate change, the failure to reach that goal has led to much lower aims this year.
Finance is expected to dominate the agenda at the talks in Cancun, which is being attended by the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, as countries seek to deliver on last year’s promise to provide 100 billion US dollars (£60 billion) a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of global warming and develop on a low-carbon path.
Also on the table will be efforts to provide funding for countries to keep their forests standing – measures which got shelved as the Copenhagen talks dissolved into chaos.
There is also a need to bring the voluntary pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord, the agreement salvaged from the negotiations in the dying hours of last year’s conference, into the UN climate process.
But an important part of the talks will be rebuilding trust between rich and poor countries, damaged last year amid the arguments over how to proceed – particularly on what to do about the existing Kyoto protocol which commits developed countries to cutting emissions, but excludes major emitters such as the US and China.
The task is going to be made more difficult in the wake of a turbulent year in US politics, in which it has become very clear that the Obama administration will not be able to secure the domestic legislation that would drive forward emissions cuts in the States and allow it to press for a global deal.
Greenpeace is demanding the EU stops using US inaction as an excuse not to take more ambitious steps to cut its emissions by 30% on 1990 levels by 2020.
Mr Huhne, who has called for Europe to move to the more ambitious 30% cuts target, has ruled out any chance of securing a final agreement in Cancun but said he wants to get closer to the legally-binding global deal the UK is looking for from the UN climate process.
Aid agencies are looking for progress on sourcing the climate finance promised in Copenhagen, for transparency on the billions of dollars of “fast-start” funding being delivered over the next few years and for moves to set up a Green Fund to deliver the cash needed.