My biggest worry for Cancun concerned an emerging narrative that fully international negotiations on climate change are no longer worth it. I've heard more and more frequently from U.S. and European climate change analysts that a post-Kyoto treaty is hopeless, that so many countries can't possibly agree on how to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Best then that we don't even try.
I find this line of thinking myopic. While I empathize with the pessimism driving this narrative, it is flawed in implying that the importance of diplomacy lies only in expected outcomes. I place a high value on the process of diplomacy, even with the frustration that sometimes goals take a long time to reach. It is best that the United States retains its range of mechanisms for climate change diplomacy, including bilateral cooperation and the the Major Economies Forum - but that should not preclude efforts toward broader cooperation. Negotiating with other countries: it's a good thing.
Luckily, as Will wrote this morning, the success in reaching Cancun's modest goals seems to have put a stake in this narrative for the moment...at least I hope so.
As for my biggest surprise from Cancun: I did not expect a major change in India's stance. Good thing I didn't bet money on that. As The Washington Post described:
India's trying to be the glue that holds Cancun together. Through its influential environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, India used diplomacy to get China and the United States to agree to allow the United India's trying to be the glue that holds Cancun together. Through its influential environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, India used diplomacy to get China and the United States to agree to allow the United Nation [sic] to verify emissions levels. To sweeten the deal, India would submit to it as well.
This is a big change for India in playing the important role of broker. In previous negotiations, its delegates tended to take the role of "leader of developing countries," maintaining a hard line on mitigation, funding, and considering emissions per capita (as by that metric India is no longer one of the world's top emitters). We'll continue to watch India's morphing role like hawks, and through the week if we find more interesting notes about Cancun we'll be sure to post them for you.