Breakthrough in Cancún

Defying the odds, the world reaches agreement on climate change.

In the past two weeks, the WikiLeaks revelations, tuition fees vote and student protests have taken over the news agenda. The UN climate change negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, have almost slipped beneath the radar. This time last year, the summit in Copenhagen was ending in frustration and disarray, with no binding agreement made or progress to speak of. The world watched in despair as ministers and advisers blamed each other for the breakdown in talks.

Perhaps the lack of media attention was exactly what was needed in order to make significant progress in the negotiations. Under the stewardship of the Mexican hosts, compromise documents were drawn up and, overcoming objections from Bolivia, endorsed by the nations present, including the United States and China (both of which have ritually blocked progress in negotiations previously).

When Todd Stern, the US envoy, voiced his support for the document ("Let us do what it takes to get this deal done and put the world on a path to a low emission and more sustainable pathway") cheers apparently rang out around the hall.

The deal, which still does not bind countries legally to cut emissions, will be insufficient for many campaigners. But most seem to agree that it represents a positive first step on the way to achieving that aim. WWF, for example, issued a statement tentatively acknowledging the "renewed sense of goodwill and some sense of purpose". The pressure is now on to legally define the deal at next year's summit in Durban, South Africa.

The summit's main success was the agreement to establish a Green Climate Fund, which will raise and distribute $100bn (£64bn) a year by 2020 to protect poor nations against the impacts of climate change and help them develop a low-carbon economy.

Taking much of the credit for the deal is the Mexican foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, who was described as a "goddess" by the Indian environment minister, Jairem Ramesh. "You have restored the confidence of the world community in multilateralism and in the multilateral process," he said.

 

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Sadiq Khan gives Jeremy Corbyn's supporters a lesson on power

The London mayor doused the Labour conference with cold electoral truths. 

There was just one message that Sadiq Khan wanted Labour to take from his conference speech: we need to be “in power”. The party’s most senior elected politician hammered this theme as relentlessly as his “son of a bus driver” line. His obsessive emphasis on “power” (used 38 times) showed how far he fears his party is from office and how misguided he believes Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are.

Khan arrived on stage to a presidential-style video lauding his mayoral victory (a privilege normally reserved for the leader). But rather than delivering a self-congratulatory speech, he doused the conference with cold electoral truths. With the biggest personal mandate of any British politician in history, he was uniquely placed to do so.

“Labour is not in power in the place that we can have the biggest impact on our country: in parliament,” he lamented. It was a stern rebuke to those who regard the street, rather than the ballot box, as the principal vehicle of change.

Corbyn was mentioned just once, as Khan, who endorsed Owen Smith, acknowledged that “the leadership of our party has now been decided” (“I congratulate Jeremy on his clear victory”). But he was a ghostly presence for the rest of the speech, with Khan declaring “Labour out of power will never ever be good enough”. Though Corbyn joined the standing ovation at the end, he sat motionless during several of the applause lines.

If Khan’s “power” message was the stick, his policy programme was the carrot. Only in office, he said, could Labour tackle the housing crisis, air pollution, gender inequality and hate crime. He spoke hopefully of "winning the mayoral elections next year in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham", providing further models of campaigning success. 

Khan peroration was his most daring passage: “It’s time to put Labour back in power. It's time for a Labour government. A Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street. A Labour Cabinet. Labour values put into action.” The mayor has already stated that he does not believe Corbyn can fulfil this duty. The question left hanging was whether it would fall to Khan himself to answer the call. If, as he fears, Labour drifts ever further from power, his lustre will only grow.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.