Online Tool Tracks Progress of the Cancun Climate Talks

UN climate talks are useful, but only if they eventually turn from talk to action.

Greenpeace Hope message on beach


UN climate talks are useful, but only if they eventually turn from talk to action. There’s no better way to gauge what’s being done than to compile all the climate pledges from different countries in one place. That’s why the UN unveiled a website this week that describes the full terms of the climate agreement made last year at the Cancun climate talks–as well as the pledges made by individual nations.

The site is, unfortunately, a bit difficult to use, with confusing subheaders (the Mitigation section discusses “Further Specific Decisions Under the Kyoto Protocol” and “Decisions Addressing Developing Country Mitigation Plans,” among other things) and a generally unwieldy layout.

Perhaps the most useful feature is the Progress Tracker, which can be found at the top of the main page. The tracker acts as a timeline for specific goals–clicking on March 28, 2011 reveals that this is the date when “industrialized countries will boost the regular
reporting of progress towards economy-wide emission reduction targets by
submitting detailed annual inventories of greenhouse gas emissions and
by reporting on progress in emission reductions every two years.” The Progress Tracker doesn’t list any dates beyond March 2011, however; future climate talks will likely produce new dates of significance for the tracker.

A separate UN site lists agreements made by individual countries, but this is also difficult to navigate.

The Cancun climate talk sites may not be all that useful for the layperson looking for information on the issue, but they are necessary–they are a central repository of information about the talks, and could be used by citizen journalists to make sure that countries are keeping to their pledges. If only the UN would make a more navigable layout, casual site visitors might have more to work with.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more