No change for nuclear in Cancún

14 December 2010

Climate talks in Cancún have put negotiations back on track, but meaningful decisions on the future of nuclear power in the Clean Development Mechanism remain for future discussion. 


"Cancún has done its job," said UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres, "The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored." She was referring to the disappointment that followed last year's oversubscribed and ineffective Copenhagen talks.


The agreement completed in Cancún goes only a little further than the Copenhagen Accord - recognising that global emissions have to start to decline soon, stating that industrialised countries need to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions and officially adopting the target of limiting warming to 2ºC. Although not legally binding, the Cancún text was endorsed by the 194 parties to the UNFCCC, in contrast to Copenhagen's which was left to individual nations to support.


One major new element in the world's climate change strategy will be funded support to end deforestation in developing countries. There will also be a Green Fund for projects in the developing world, which will start with $30 billion by 2012 and grow to $100 billion per year in 2020. Countries have agreed to a system of monitoring and reporting on their climate change actions.


Despite recognition by most countries as a reliable and sustainable low-carbon power source, nuclear power was excluded from use as a climate change mitigation technology under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) up to 2012. The Cancún text avoided the subject of whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol's commitment periods and three texts describing nuclear's potential role in the CDM remain on the table for later debate.


One option is that nuclear facilities shall not be eligible under the next period of the CDM; another recognises that Annex I (developed) countries are "to refrain" from counting nuclear development among their mitigation measures in the next period and beyond; a third would allow nuclear facilities "that commenced operation on or after 1 January 2008" as eligible under the CDM, and would refer to a committee to draft the "modalities and procedures" of this for later discussion.


A decision on nuclear energy in the CDM would be academic until negotiators can decide on what international agreement will succeed the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. This decision will be the objective for negotiators at the next conference, which is due to take place in Durban, South Africa from 28 November to 9 December 2011.


Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

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