The [im]possible outcome of Cancun

-by Juan C. Soriano

At the beginning of the conference I wrote about countries coming to Cancun with low expectations but hoping to agree to a balanced outcome – in other words a balanced package of decisions involving mitigation, finance, accountability (Measurable, Reportable, and Verifiable or MRVs in UN lingo), and the legal form of the outcome.

The negotiations are in their final stages here in Cancun. COP president Patricia Espinoza has less than 24 hours to meet the deadline she posed to the plenary a couple of days ago. She told parties she expects an almost finalized document by tomorrow Friday at 9am and the parties to finalize its work that day by 6pm.

This is an overwhelming task when key elements in the negotiations have not made much progress since yesterday. An agreement on protecting natural forests is also stalled. In this blog, I want to outline the most positive and realistic scenario that could still come from these negotiations.

Mitigation: Countries agree to avoid warming beyond 1.5 degrees C and to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at 350ppm.

Finance: Countries establish a climate change fund under the Convention with an executive board that ensures equitable representation among countries and gender balance. The World Bank is out of the question.

Accountability: An agreement by parties which honors the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. This agreement should also build on the modalities for measuring, reporting, and verifying mitigations actions already in the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.

Legal Form: Parties agreeing to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate to finalize a second legally binding instrument under the convention by COP17.

In my view, any outcome that falls short of this is not meeting the already low expectations for the negotiations.

Wikileaks, the Climate Cables

-by Graham

One of the things I’ve been working on over these past few weeks is sifting through the cables in Wikileaks, searching for information about how different countries were dealing with the post-Copenhagen situation. I’ve been passing this information on to Doreen so that her colleagues can work on bringing these to a larger audience. Along the way I’ve found some pretty disheartening stuff. It seems as though over the past year, the US and the EU have totally lost interest in any kind of genuine transparent diplomacy on Climate Change. The French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said that it would be up to the major heads of state, (specifically of eight or ten, from Germany and France for Europe, the US, China, India, Brazil, Algeria, and Ethiopia* and possibly South Africa) “Once these leaders, working through their sherpas or personal representatives agree on an implementation plan for Copenhagen, it will be largely acceptable to, and accepted by, the rest of the world, and can then be returned to a UN forum to be finalised.” If you take a close look at this list, you’ll notice that the interests of least developed countries and small island states are not taken into account. Ethiopia is also now known to have been bought out by the US through diplomatic pressure and development aid in order to support the Copenhagen Accord, fragmenting a united voice from the African Group.

The initial fear about Wikileaks here in Cancun was that they would come to overshadow any real negotiations going on about things that mattered, much like ‘Climategate’ wasted everyone’s time last year. What Wikileaks has revealed however, is extremely relevant to the way the negotiations are going on, it speaks to the major issues of transparency that have been raised and are still ongoing as small, high-level, ‘green room’ discussions continue. Evo Morales, President of the wonderfully titled ‘Plurinational State of Bolivia’ just addressed the COP a couple of hours ago, and Bolivia is calling for a return to party-driven negotiations.

When you read the Wikileaks cables related to climate, what you see is a classic picture of American politics. On the surface, the US claims that they are leading the way to a realistic climate deal that everyone can work together on. Once you get anywhere underneath this superficial veneer, you notice that the US develops a position that is in their immediate economic best interest, and bullies other countries until they concede. The US and its climate allies (Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and now Russia and sometimes the EU) have developed this strategy so that the blame for climate change is placed anywhere but on them. They have tried China, Bolivia, civil society, and the UN processes, all in the hope that people don’t notice that they are the ones blocking progress for everyone else, simply because there is a lack of political will domestically. Wikileaks cables have clearly shown that by buying out countries like Ethiopia, the Maldives, and nations in the EU they are no longer world leaders but are dragging their heels and don’t want to be caught doing so. If the US isn’t ready, so be it, but it would be nice if they let everyone else get on with their jobs and didn’t spoil these negotiations for everyone else. It is time that the US took a backseat in climate negotiations, where they belong, and let the real agents of change do the negotiating.

Update: Evo Morales to speak at Via Campesina


“Si nosotros mandamos a la basura el Protocol de Kyoto, seriamos responsables de econocidio, ecocidio, y genocidio”

“If we toss the Kyoto Protocol in the garbage, we would responsible for econo-cide, ecocide, and genocide”

-President Juan Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia

Just a few minutes ago, a large part of the CoA delegation gathered at Cancun Messe around a live video feed to watch Bolivian President, Juan Evo Morales, make a statement at a plenary in Moon Palace. Though he wasn’t personally invited by the Mexican government, who invites those ministers it feels will be conducive to the negotiations, Morales was still able to speak to an approving audience at the Moon Palace and Cancun Messe.

Later today, President Morales will be speaking at a La Via Campesina event which will be attended by  many of the CoA delegates.

Listen to Juan Soriano

COA senior Juan Carlos Soriano was interviewed on TeleSur, a network considered to be the Latin American equivalent of  CNN. Listen to his conversation, in Spanish:

The Mexico City Pact is Officially Presented at COP16

-by Moisés Flores Baca

On November 21 of this year the the World Mayors Summit on Climate took place in Mexico City, there, mayors from 142 cities around the world signed the “Mexico City Pact”, by which the signatories commit themselves to take meaningful action to reduce the emissions produced by their cities. Yesterday such pact, which contains the point of view on climate change and climate action of cities such as LA and Seoul, was officially presented to the members of the COP16.

The meeting was opened by the chair of the COP16, Patricia Espinosa, who emphasized the importance of the role of local governments and parliaments in the decision making process to address climate change. She said that it is well known that ‘politics is always local’, and that local politics is the one that has the deepest and most resounding effects on people, hence, the voice of local governments cannot go unheard in the climate negotiations since those governments are the ones closest to the people.

After the opening remarks by Patricia Espinosa it was Cristiana Figueres’ turn to speak. She added to what Ms Espinosa said that local governments are also at the front line when it comes to concrete climate action. She then brought up Calderon’s point -given during his speech the day before- that the only way to close both the wealth and the environmental gaps is to effectively combat the problem of climate change. Development and climate stability do not have to be mutually exclusive. However, for effective climate action to take place, she continued, it is imperative that national governments have confidence that they can reach agreements, confidence that can only be gained if we, the general public, give them our full support. Figueres continued by echoing what she said during her meeting with the youth representatives last week: that we are here now in Cancun to fertilize the ground upon which a legally binding agreement must bloom in the future -that is, in Durban 2011. Figueres also highlighted the importance there is in the fact that 142 mayors have come up with an agreement for climate action -the one signed in Mexico City- that demonstrates not only a common understanding of the climate problematic, but also a commitment to take the first steps toward a more sustainable way of doing things. She called on negotiators to look at what happened in Mexico City in November as an example of what should be happening here at Cancun, and must happen in future negotiations. She concluded by saying that at the climate negotiations there are four sectors that is imperative to take into account if we are to achieve our climate goals: the national governments level, the city and local governments level, the civil society, and the private sector. Only with these four working together we will attain a truly sustainable future.

Then it was the turn to listen to Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City’s Mayor and the winer of the 2010 World Mayor Prize. Ebrard started by emphasizing the fact that yesterday was a historical day since it was the first time that a declaration signed by local governments is presented to the COP. In this way the importance that local governments play in the fight against climate change is recognized. After mentioning the fact that 142 cities including cities from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas are signatories of the declaration presented, Ebrad explained that the effort made by the cities is not only to criticize the process of negotiations carried out by the UNFCCC, but rather, it is to support that effort. It is to remind them that the time they are spending is not only theirs, but it belongs to every single person on earth because it is the future of everyone that is at stake. Thus negotiators do not have the right to lose time, however, he continued, if cities such as LA or Seoul have been able to agree on drastically reducing their emissions, why do we have to wait for the international actors to reach an agreement?: local governments should take the first step and there is in fact a lot that they can do. Ebrad concluded by announcing that next year the results of the emission reduction plans of the cities signatories of the Mexico City Agreement will be made public for the whole world, keeping the spirit of transparency that he considers is essential to achieve the goals set.

For the second half of the event there were three speakers, the mayor of Brussels, a representative of Namibia, and Vancouver’s council, who respectively emphasized the fact that cities are the most efficient kind of human settlement arrangement that exists, the responsibility bore by parliamentarians to their people, and the irony of being willing to bail out bankers but not to commit to investing $100 billion a year to fight the effects of climate change.

I think that the most important take out point from the presentation of the Mexico City Agreement to the COP is that, perhaps, if the national governments around the world are incapable of reaching emissions reduction agreements, we should reach out to city or other levels of government. We do not have to solely rely on national governments.