The United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), which will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10, 2010, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP). It sounds like a big deal but you don’t hear much about the COP in the media these days. Does anyone recall the frenzy about the COP this time last year? We certainly remember the speculation regarding which heads of state would be attending and what agreements would be reached. It felt like the Super Bowl of COPs. This year feels a lot different. The COP is meeting with far less hype and we wonder whether the conference parties learned their lesson from last year and decided to abide by the adage “under promise and over deliver”.  

Perhaps. It’s not like there aren’t significant decisions to be made this year. To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by CMP 6 in Cancun.

At its thirteenth session in Bali, the COP launched a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC through long-term cooperative action (LCA) now, up to and beyond 2010, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session in Copenhagen. This process has been conducted under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). In Copenhagen, the COP decided to extend the mandate of the AWG-LCA to enable it to continue its work with a view to presenting the outcome to COP 16 for adoption. It is under the AWG-LCA that the Copenhagen Accord was reached at COP 15.

Like Last Year, the Environmental Law Resource Blog Will Provide Daily Updates of COP-16 Starting on November 30, 201.

With comprehensive climate legislation or even more-narrow energy legislation shelved in the United States there is little hope for any significant movement on a global climate change treaty this year – since most major nations will not agree to binding emission reduction in the face of inaction by the United States. This is frustrating to many world participants, particularly since it looks like US climate policy will not be making any significant strides towards placing a price on a ton of carbon in the wake of the recent elections. World leaders are therefore looking elsewhere – outside the UNFCCC process – to address climate issues. And where might they land? On a protocol, but not Kyoto – instead, some world leaders are looking to the Montreal Protocol to address global climate change. The Montreal Protocol was adopted in 1987 for a completely different purpose, to eliminate aerosols and other chemicals that were blowing a hole in the Earth’s protective ozone layers. And it has been amazingly successful at addressing this problem on a global level. The idea would be to use this successful template to address GHG emission – expanding the ozone treaty to phase out the production and use of the industrial chemicals known as hydro fluorocarbons or HFCs – one of the 6 Kyoto GHGS that has thousands of times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. If the UNFCCC fails to address climate change, look to the Montreal Protocol to be expanded to address at least the high global warming potential GHGs under the Kyoto Protocol.