Cancun Climate Talks Progressing Slowly

Many people deny the existence of climate change, but insurance companies are not among them. One of the reporters covering Cancun Climate Conference 2010 took a side trip to hurricane magnet Grand Bahama, where he visited with locals and talked global warming with insurance consultants Caribbean Risk Managers.

Marketplace reporter Scott Tong says the insurance industry ended the debate some time ago. "Industry has accepted absolutely that climate change is real," Tong quotes insurance company official Simon Young as saying. "There is no debate either at the management level or at the technical level as to whether climate change is going to have an impact on their industry. "

Of course, insurance companies have a vested interest in the issue. After all, they stand to absorb billions in damage claims if the seas rise and coastal regions flood. Here is Tong's story.

Talks are in the early stages and India has proposed a plan that could lead to progress, but few people expect significant results. Incremental steps seem to be the best the 190 countries represented hope for. Mexican officials are pressing for the best possible outcome, but getting a commitment to cut emissions significantly has proved elusive.

President Barack Obama has proposed reducing U.S. emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, a target that Mexican climate envoy Luis Alfonso de Alba declared as "modest." And he doesn't see much improvement in the wake of midterm elections that favored Republicans.

Today, the United Nations envoy acknowledged that an extension of greenhouse gas emissions set in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, won't happen in Cancun. β€œIt is very clear that given the diversity of positions on the Kyoto Protocol it is not going to be possible for Cancun to take a radical decision one way or the other on the Kyoto Protocol,” Christiana Figueres said in this report by Bloomberg.

As a result, the world's second-biggest market for emissions credits could be at risk.

Nonetheless, India is pushing ahead with an ambitious plan that, according to ClimateWire, has the potential to move talks forward. The proposal is for a global monitoring system, but requires stiffer emissions requirements from the United States. And the U.S. has said it will accept binding restrictions only if China does.

It remains to be seen if the gap between China and United States can be bridged.