After the hype and subsequent disappointment surrounding last year's UN climate talks in Copenhagen, which failed to produce binding global agreement on emissions reductions, the expectations for this year's talks, which open in Cancun, Mexico today, are much more modest.
"We're not going to get a global, legally binding deal at Cancun," UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the Governors' Global Climate Summit at UC Davis earlier this month. "We've got to make it a staging post toward that deal."
Rather than focusing on a comprehensive binding agreement, negotiators will likely focus on technical steps that could pave the way for a final deal at next year's talks in South Africa, when the Kyoto Protocol expires. Those might include financing for developing nations to deal with climate change; setting standards for measuring, reporting, and verifying nations' greenhouse gas emissions; and tackling emissions from deforestation.
The post also talks about California's plan to organize "sub-national" governments, such as states, in projects that will tackle climate change in a way that national governments seem as yet unable to.
Meanwhile, California is moving ahead with its plans to organize a network of sub-national cooperation, called the R20, which Governor Schwarzenegger announced in Copenhagen last year and officially launched at his summit in Davis two weeks ago.
"As a binding international agreement remains elusive, we know that there’s a lot of work that can be done at the sub-national level," said Cal-EPA Secretary Linda Adams, who will be in Cancun promoting R20. "In fact the UN itself says that up to 80% of all mitigation that will be required to keep the Earth’s temps stable will be done at the sub-national level."
That work will primarily focus on organizing regional and local governments around to world to work together on clean energy projects, said Terry Tamminen, the former Cal-EPA chief who is currently leading R20 efforts.
To watch live webcasts from theconference, try here.