The final week of critical climate negotiations in Cancun is upon us and Australia’s minister for climate change, Greg Combet, arrived on the weekend and got straight to work. He has landed himself in the middle of tense and fragile negotiations. There remains a mixed atmosphere of optimism for success in Cancun and fear of inadequate action.

So far during Cancun we have seen incremental progress in some areas, however, we still lack the breakthrough that is needed. Despite countries coming together in the spirit of collaboration with more compromise, we are yet to see a much-needed increase in the pace of negotiations or movement towards a fair, ambitious or binding international treaty.

Australia’s precise role in Cancun is difficult to discern as so many of the meetings are closed to observers.  While it is clear that we have some respectable positions, such as a commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, it is difficult to know how Australia’s team is negotiating on the all important details. All eyes are now turned to Combet to see what role he will play in progressing the talks and securing strong outcomes from Cancun.

During an extended meeting on Sunday (that’s right, the negotiations do not stop for weekends) it was announced that Australia’s minister will co-facilitate a key negotiating stream. Combet will co-facilitate the negotiations on finance, technology and capacity building with the Bangladeshi minister for the environment. While this may sound a bit dry, this negotiation may yield one of the most important outcomes of these climate talks.

The finance component of this negotiating stream deals with the establishment of the global climate fund to support adaptation and emission reductions in the developing world (read my blog on this topic on ABC’s The Drum). Establishing the governance and management procedures for a fund is becoming a key theme of these talks.

Peter Fray

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