Image source: COP16 website (cc2010.mx)

Last Monday’s Climate talks in Cancun could lead to a breakthrough in the climate negotiations. China, one of the nations most looked at in Cancun, has made a proactive offer to have its personal reduction targets binding by submitting them to an international United Nations resolution by the end of the week. By doing so, China is taking on a very positive and flexible position, and maybe even providing a way out of negotiations blocked by many different factors.

Offering to have its personal reduction target objectives written down in a binding international agreement puts pressure on other countries, especially the U.S. and Japan, to do the same; or at least to accept a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period, which the U.S. never signed in the first place.

There is a lot that still needs to be discussed in Cancun. First there is the issue of getting the existing carbon reduction pledges from last year’s Climate Conference into a binding agreement. Then there is the question whether or not the Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 developed countries to set target emissions, should be prolonged. Finally there is the will from industrialized nations to forget about Kyoto, voluntary pledges and partial agreements and push through a global, separate agreement regulating all nations.

The way China now looks at the problem could change the tone of the negotiations. China is ready to compromise and bind itself to set emissions reduction targets. By doing so, it hopes to inspire other nations to continue the existing Kyoto Protocol. Of course China is not perfect, and although the country might come out of the COP16 Climate talks more honorably than the U.S. or Japan, their targets would still be entirely voluntary. But still, by doing so China opens the path for others nations to consider making their own emissions target reductions binding too, which in the end – if enough countries are ready to go for such a compromise – could mean the start of a real global binding climate treaty.