The compromise text that the delegates applauded was only work in progress, full of pledges to settle differences later – differences like the fate of the Kyoto protocol, legally binding emissions targets and the role of carbon markets. The firmest commitment was to meet again next year in Durban, South Africa.
And yet behind the scenes, at side events across Cancún, the architecture of a remarkable new low-carbon world was on display - a world with ambition as great in developing nations as in the rich world.
Dozens of nations – rich and poor, forested and industrialised – came to Cancún having put flesh on promises made in Copenhagen, many of which were unilateral and do not depend on a UN agreement at all. If the talks ultimately founder in Durban or later, that momentum might just save the world without the leadership of the UN or the authority of a UN agreement.
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