So, what did Chris Huhne achieve in Cancun?

After the hype and disappointment over Copenhagen, the climate change talks in Cancun were also going to be much lower profile – a gentle attempt to have some successful preparatory work and build up momentum ahead of the next round of talks. However, with the tuition fees vote this week, Chris Huhne’s presence at the talks got rather more publicity than usual. But what actually happened at the talks?

Chris HuhneThree days of intensive talks involving Chris Huhne and others resulted in modest progress on a wide range of fronts.

Perhaps most significant was the willingness of many on both sides of the traditional developed / developing world divide to seek agreement, with the increasing impact of environmental damage in the developing world helping to provide an incentive for reaching an agreement that compliments the pressure of the often more vocal environmental campaign groups in the developed world.

Agreement was reached on setting three overall ambitions: hitting a peak of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees and setting a long-term global emissions reduction target for 2050. A Climate Change Fund is being established to help developing countries tackle and adapt to climate change alongside measures to speed up the spread of low-emissions technology to the developing world.

Overall, the international climate change regime is back on track after Copenhagen, even if it is moving rather slowly.

For more details about the talks, see this Reuters report.

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  • Firstly, you mention the pairing issue. this is a bit of a red herring for three reasons; firstly, the Lib Dems had enough planning to vote against that an internal arrangement could easily have been reached and secondly the government scheduled the vote at short notice knowing Huhne would be away (would another week have hurt a policy not fully explained or due to be implemented for 2 years?). The final and most pertinent point is that he was attending the summit with another MP who was committed to voting against therefore any pairing would actually have skewed the figures for the Government.

    As to what has been achieved, unfortnately (and this is no reflection on Huhne or his predecessors) very little. We have previously had these agreements to “set ambitions” and will have more in the future. I believe all three major parties are similar in their approach to the environment, and that all are far more prepared to make sacrifices than other major nations. I’m afraid that it is a case of slowing the Titanic down as it approaches the iceberg rather than changing course. The ship will still sink, but it will allow the orchestra to play a few more tunes as it does so…….

    Of course the (black) comedy moment for me was when interviewed on TV he mentioned his intention to get countries to pledge action…… I think he realised his choice of words were poor as he moved swiftly on.

  • “Meanwhile, the world continues to heat up ……….”


  • This is another non-binding document, although it does contain a few pledges. However, we know the LibDem approach to pledges, don’t we?

    BTW, the four page report from Reuters UK includes the roles played in reaching agreement by the climate ‘tsars’ from different countries, but Chris Huhne doesn’t get a mention.

  • Martin Land 12th Dec '10 - 1:23pm

    A good tan?

  • Emsworthian 12th Dec '10 - 1:29pm

    I’m afraid the best that can be said for it is that the process(whatever it is) continues for another year. No dates, no numbers no legal framework and probably, it will transpire, no new money. Until you get real seriousness from the big hitters it’s mostly about grandstands and gestures. Still Chris hasn’t damaged himself this week unlike some people I’d rather not mention.

  • It doesn't add up... 12th Dec '10 - 1:58pm

    Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun. And if the sun don’t come you get a tax from standing in the English snow and ice while in Cancun they were having record low temperatures and no tans:

    Is Huhne the egg man?

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Dec '10 - 4:12pm

    One of the things that Huhne achieved was missing the vote on tuition fees. He would have voted for the government if he had been there, but he was “paired” with another LibDem who would have voted against. Is that the first ever intra-party pairing?

  • @Chris Squire
    Point taken, not such a good analogy!!!

    To try to redeem myself then…

    We cannot keep heading straight for this iceberg hoping to survive, unlike the Titanic we need evasive action, and we need it soon…

    (How’s that??)

  • Ed Maxfield 12th Dec '10 - 7:35pm

    As Nick says, he avoided voting for higher tuition fees. Should come in handy at the next leadership contest 🙂

  • Nick (not Clegg) 12th Dec '10 - 8:49pm

    @ Ed Maxfield

    I voted for him in the last two. Not next time, ”though; I shan’t be voting for any member of the current government.

  • What is the carbon footprint of a typical uni education? I mean we still teach courses in the same way as when these venerable institutions were founded. Many science courses need to be on site, but with modern technology most arts and humanities courses could be taught by distance learning (with a summer school). I was very interested in the (off message) opinion of a Green PPC, arguing that sending 50% of our youngsters to traditional unis was both unattainable economically and environmentally.

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