What You Should Know About the 2010 Climate Change Conference in Cancun

by Cara Gourley on January 11, 2011

2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference

I love Cancun (obviously) and so I spend a lot of time looking through news about Cancun. So if you’re like me, you’ve probably heard about an UN conference in Cancun dealing with “something about the environment” that was held in December.

So what was all of the fuss about? I decided to dig a little deeper to bring you a bit of knowledge about the conference and give you exactly what you need to sound knowledgeable about the outcome and implications.

Here’s a brief summary on what happened in Cancun:


The full name of the conference is the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference was held in Cancún, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December 2010.



The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) first came about in 1992 at what is commonly known as the Earth Summit. It officially started in 1994 after 50 countries had officially ratified it. The common goal is to commit to “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”  There are currently 194 UNFCCC members.

The parties have been meeting annual ever since ratification. The conference in Cancun was the 16th annual meeting. The previous conference was held in Copenhagen. This convention was controversial because only a non binding agreement (the Copenhagen Accord) was reached. This drastically reduced the expectations on the impact of the conference in Cancun.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is a UNFCCC protocol that will set “binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” It originated in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference was also the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Outcome of the 2010 Conference

The Climate Change Conference in Cancun did better than expected, but still has not reached a binding agreement. The package agreed upon is nicknamed the “Cancun Agreement.”

Summary of Key Points

  • The Green Climate Fund was established. It explains how the fund will be governed, but not how the money will be raised. The Cancun Agreement calls for developed countries to “provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012.”
  • Developing countries are required to come up with plans to cut their emissions in accordance with a previously agreed upon worldwide effort to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
    They must include “annual greenhouse gas inventories and inventory reports and biennial reports on their progress in achieving emission reductions, including information on mitigation actions to achieve their quantified economy-wide emissions targets and emission reductions achieved, projected emissions and on the provision of financial, technology and capacity-building support to developing country Parties.”
  • Redd – the UN’s deforestation scheme where developed countries pay developing countries not to chop down forests – received formal backing.
  • Any decisions on the future of the Kyoto protocol were deferred until next year.

What did you think of the Cancun Climate Change Conference?

Cara is the Director of Web and Video Production at All About Mexico. She loves traveling, taking photos of everything and writing about Mexico. You can follow her on twitter - @allaboutcara.
Cara Gourley
View all posts by Cara Gourley

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