Cancún climate talks: In search of the holy grail of climate change policy

Cancún climate talks: In search of the holy grail of climate change policyA legally binding global treaty remains the holy grail of climate change policy. It was to help achieve such an agreement that the Copenhagen conference last December was hyped into mankind's last chance to save the planet; and, because it failed to do so, why a sense of doom has since descended on climate activists.

But a new global treaty to succeed the first phase of the Kyoto Protocolin 2012 is not even on the agenda for the conference in Cancún.  The most Cancún can achieve is to put in place some important building blocks for a new regime – on issues such as adaptation to global warmingstopping deforestation and paying for it all – which will help rebuild trust and show that the UN process is not actually dead.

But the good news is that this doesn't matter. Contrary to widespread assumption, action on climate change is not dependent on a new legally binding international agreement. Countries are already taking action to cut emissions without it – and they will continue to do so whatever the outcome in Cancún.