A Update on the Climate Talks in Cancun

Greetings from sunny and warm Cancun. We already have a few days behind us and it is still hard to judge what exactly will come out of the climate talks. Things do feel much quieter than last year in Copenhagen, both due to the smaller numbers and lower expectations everyone brought with them. The other factor adding to the quiet feeling is the fact that the conference is split between two venues. The side events and booths are being held in one location, the Cancun Messe, where security is located. This means everyone goes through security, files past the booths and out the other end to board a bus to the location of the negotiations, the Moon Palace. This has led to NGOs feeling separated from the negotiations and a separation between country delegates and NGO representatives. It also means a lot of shuttling back and forth between the two venues and considerable travel time. I do have to commend the Mexicans for ensuring a steady stream of shuttles between the two venues and an army of helpful and polite local staff to answer questions when you inevitably get lost. But this does not prevent the frustration with long travel times, especially on the first day when kinks still had to be worked out. Most delegates are staying in hotel zone, where various shuttle bus routes have been set up to ferry delegates in and out. On a normal day the drive should take between 20-30 minutes but due to traffic and police checks, the drive took between 1 ½ to 2 hours one way. I estimate I spent over 3 hours traveling on Monday, so everyone was a bit frustrated and worried that this would be daily occurrence but luckily that is not the case.

Outside of logistics, the negotiations are moving ahead, but it is hard to say what the results will be. Everyone knows by now that Copenhagen did not live up to expectations and it took the better part of the year to rebuild the trust. Coming into Cancun, there are some areas that look promising in terms of agreement, namely the green fund, technology mechanism, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), adaptation and measuring, reporting and verification (MRV). Then more difficult issues, such as mitigation and legal form would be left for future negotiations. I’ve heard a lot of talk of the need for some sort of agreement here in Cancun, both to establish a foundation to work off and to re-establish trust.

The opening plenary on Monday included the President of Mexico appealing to delegates to think beyond the negotiating room and their own countries to humanity as whole. The big news Monday, though, was the statement by Japan in the opening plenary of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) working group that they will not inscribe its target in a second committee period of the KP under any conditions or circumstances. This statement did not start things out on the right foot and, depending how the other countries handle this tough stance taken by Japan, could lead to a breakdown in the negotiations altogether. The stance did win Japan the “Fossil of the Day” award Tuesday, which is given out daily by the Climate Action Network (CAN) and of which GCI is a member. On the first day, Canada had the unusual honor of securing all three Award spots for reducing its national target after Copenhagen, cutting the only major renewable energy support program for Canada’s climate science foundation, and killing a progressive climate change bill in the federal Senate without debate earlier this month. Wednesday’s top honor went to a bevy of countries including Saudi Arabia, Norway, Kuwait, Algeria, UAE, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar and Jordan for continuing to propose the inclusion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The second place spot Wednesday went to Ukraine, Russia, New Zealand and Australia for blocking the discussion on solutions to problem of surplus Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) or hot air.

At the last round of talks in China in October, the big news was the exchange of words between the US and China, the top two emitters in the world. Here in Cancun, the US has dug in their heels early but saying they want a balanced package that would incorporate all elements of the Copenhagen Accord but they emphasize the importance of transparency to ensure mitigation targets are met.

For Green Cross, we are working hard with our partners in the Water and Climate Coalition, meeting with delegates to discuss the possibility of including water within the framework of the talks. Currently, water is only mentioned once within the draft text, which is surprising considering the consensus that climate change would have a significant impact on water resources. The Coalition produced a comprehensive Discussion Paper ahead of Cancun, proposing and outlining the establishment of a work programme on water and climate - which can be found HERE.

I am predicting things will get hot in here in Cancun and I’m not talking about the weather.

Michelle Laug Communications Executive Green Cross International