Statement by Nicholas Stern on Cancún agreement

Posted on 11 Dec 2010 in

Commenting on the outcome of the negotiations at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico, Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), said: “This is a modest but significant outcome that provides a good platform for progress towards next year’s United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, where a strong international agreement could emerge. The outcome covers the key areas of tackling deforestation, adapting to the impacts of climate change, advancing the development of low-carbon technologies and providing financial support for developing countries. Although the negotiations over national actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been difficult, this conference has consolidated the pledges that have been made earlier this year in association with the Copenhagen Accord.

“Overall, we have seen some progress on all the key elements of an eventual agreement. This summit has allowed mutual confidence to be built between countries in a much stronger spirit of cooperation than we saw in Copenhagen last year.

“This year has seen strong progress in plans for low-carbon development in key countries in all continents. The actions outlined in China’s 12th five-year plan, and the national plans of the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Ethiopia and many other developing countries provide important and credible examples of the way forward. Each is tailored to its own circumstances, but all are driven by the attraction of the new energy and industrial revolution and the prospects for sustainable low-carbon economic growth. And it should be remembered that these countries have voluntary, not binding agreements. Some of the developed countries which as a group, with the exception of the United States, do have binding commitments are also making strong progress, such as Sweden and Denmark, although others, such as Canada, are not.

“Progress on national policies and plans, international policy and investments is mutually reinforcing. Hesitation in one area slows action on the other two. Confidence and strong examples of investments can create more confidence for the making of national and international policy. Thus, it is a serious mistake to argue that climate change could be managed effectively through a bottom-up approach alone based only on country-by-country domestic actions carried out in isolation. This summit will help build the necessary confidence in international policy that can boost both national policies and investment. And progress towards the low-carbon economy in both the private sector and national planning has enhanced the spirit of international collaboration. In this sense, the bottom-up and top-down processes reinforce each other.

“Progress has been achieved here over the past couple of weeks, and during the year, because there has been a much more positive atmosphere, with less hype and more realistic expectations about the prospects for agreement. The Mexican government, and President Calderón and Foreign Minister Espinosa in particular, deserve great credit for creating a constructive process that embodies the spirit of cooperation that lies at the heart of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They clearly learned from the experience of Copenhagen last year where a small group dominated by the rich countries attempted to dictate the terms of an agreement to the rest of the world. Instead, we have seen a spirit of mutual confidence-building. Part of this mutual confidence arises from the increasing recognition that low-carbon growth is the only way to respond to the two defining challenges of our century, which are managing climate change and overcoming world poverty. If we fail on one, we fail on the other.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Nicholas Stern was Second Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury of the UK Government between 2003 and 2007. He also served as Head of the Government Economic Service, head of the review of economics of climate change (the results of which were published in ‘The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review’ in October 2006), and director of policy and research for the Commission for Africa. His previous posts included Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at the World Bank, and Chief Economist and Special Counsellor to the President at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He was recommended as a non-party-political life peer by the UK House of Lords Appointments Commission in October 2007. Baron Stern of Brentford was introduced in December 2007 to the House of Lords, where he sits on the independent cross-benches.
  2. Lord Stern is Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, which was launched at LSE in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. Lord Stern is also Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, which is hosted by the University of Leeds and LSE jointly. He is also Director of the India Observatory and the Asia Research Centre at London School of Economics and Political Science.