Prior to last year's climate talks in Copenhagen, we served as Special Envoys of the United Nations Secretary-General, seeking to bring the nations of the world together around those negotiations. Like most people involved in the process, we sensed that a comprehensive agreement would elude our grasp, despite our best hopes.
Unfortunately, we were right. Despite the need for progress against a threat that grows more ominous the longer the world waits to act, Copenhagen did not give us the comprehensive agreement we wished for. However, important principles were laid down in the Copenhagen Accord, including agreement on:
Now, a year later, negotiators will gather once again, this time in Cancún, to resume the climate talks and see what progress can be made. As much as we would like to see a new global deal, we believe that the world is still not politically ready for it. Negotiators in Cancún should aim at building the pillars of a future comprehensive agreement, through an approach that seeks to build on the progress achieved in and after Copenhagen and encourages strong national action.
The worsening climate news cries out for action to reduce emissions. The year to date is the second hottest on record. The devastating floods in Pakistan, Russia's drought-stricken wheat fields burning -- these extreme weather events are consistent with the predicted pattern of a warming globe.
Yet these harbingers of a climate-constrained future have not brought a clamor for action in international climate change negotiations. Even so, there are encouraging signs of concrete national action. For example:
These countries recognize that the world inevitably will have to shift to low- and no-carbon energy technologies, and they are acting now to establish leadership positions for the 21st century economy. They also recognize that investments in energy "productivity" -- making better use of every kilowatt-hour generated -- make just as much sense as reducing waste in any other area of business.
In Cancún the negotiators should recognize what countries are saying with their national actions and encourage the shift to a greener energy economy on a global basis. New decisions on energy efficiency and renewable energy, alongside pending agreements on avoided deforestation and land use and on technology development and cooperation, would have immediate impacts on global warming emissions. These steps would also do much to rebuild confidence in the negotiations and set a course toward a broader agreement.
We believe that it is possible to agree on provisions for monitoring, reporting and verification of the implementation of targets and actions. Countries don't hide their progress on clean energy technologies -- they boast about it -- and energy consumption and intensity, the energy consumed per unit of GDP, can be indirectly estimated in a number of ways.
In the transition to a low-carbon economy, a global registry of national targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency could lead to a "race to the top" -- a race that Denmark and the Maldives could win just as easily as their bigger neighbors. As the price of oil rises and the cost of renewable fuels and electricity falls, the best performers will see direct benefit to their economies. But the real winners of such a race will be all of us and our children, who depend upon the climate to live upon this Earth.
Gro Brundtland is the former Prime Minister of Norway. Ricardo Lagos is the former President of Chile.