Delays, confusion, misinformation: Cancun Day 1

by Lindsay Britton

“Every hour which we spend in useless transport and in useless bureaucracy is an hour less spent working and an hour less spent on coverage of this very, very important conference. Can you please find a way of speeding things up so we are not caught in traffic jams and we are not caught in places where we cannot get taxis and we are able to work?” -Richard Ingham, French News Agency

COP 15 in Copenhagen was a massive disappointment. The Danish presidency forced an agreement that was outside of the UN process and completely inadequate for the problem that climate change presents. Adding insult to injury, many of the nongovernmental and media delegates who tried to register in the second week of the negotiations were left standing in lines all day. After the first day of COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, it seems that the Danish government actually spoiled us by comparison.

It took our delegation over two and a half hours to get from our hostel to the Moon Palace where the actual negotiations are taking place. In order to get to the negotiations, we must take a taxi to the Plaza Las Americas and wait for the official COP 16 bus. Yesterday we waited for over half an hour. Two buses filled up before we were able to get on one. Once the staff realized that the bus would not fit everyone in the line, the NGO delegates had to get into another line to let the party delegates on. I felt as though we were intentionally being kept away from the negotiations, but that the Mexican presidency was being sneaky about it.

After boarding the third COP 16 bus, we were taken to Cancunmesse. This is a separate facility about 15 minutes from the Moon Palace where NGOs hold side events and have booths set up. The Mexican government tried to change the way that traffic went on the highway, leading to a massive traffic jam. Instead of one side of the highway having northbound traffic and the other side having southbound traffic, the southbound side was dedicated to COP 16 traffic. At Cancunmesse we went through security, and then got in another line to wait for the shuttle to the Moon Palace.

Following this day of last minute changes in the time and location of meetings and going back and forth between the two buildings holding the negotiations, there was a reception for all of the delegates on the Moonlight Terrace at the Moon Palace. However, finding out where the Moonlight Terrace was proved difficult. One person told us to go to the second of the two buildings. Once we got there, we were told to go back to the building we had just left. Once we were back in that building, we were told that we had to go through the other building. After all of the hassles that the day had presented, I was too tired to really enjoy the party. I ate dinner and then left, without partaking in a single free cocktail.

There was security to leave the reception, but not to enter it. In order to leave, we had to walk through a winding hallway through the building. We went through a metal detector and our bags went through the X-ray machine. There were only two people manning this security checkpoint. One handed us the bin to put our bag in, and the other one gave it back. No one looked at the screen as the bags were X-rayed, and no one stopped people who set off the metal detector.

Having successfully navigating our way back to the shuttle, we had to stand in line for about twenty minutes to leave. Many people walked past the line and boarded the shuttles without any of the multiple staff members bothering to tell them there was a line. After arriving at the Cancunmesse, because all travel to and from the Moon Palace must inexplicably go through Cancunmesse, we waited about ten minutes for the bus to take us back to Plaza Las Americas. At about 11 p.m., nearly 15 hours after we started our day, we were finally back at our hostel. We learned that we must wake up even earlier and leave at 7 a.m. in order to get to the Moon Palace before plenaries start at 10 a.m.

As much as a hassle as this was, it is not nearly as bad as what the media delegates must go through. They must take a separate shuttle from Cancunmesse to a separate building at the Moon Palace. There they must go through security again and then get on another bus to go to the buildings where negotiations are taking place. This is even worse than the lack of transparency that occurred in Copenhagen. The press was not restricted from entering the Bella Center at COP 15, but the bureaucracy that has been set up in Cancun is effectively keeping them from their work here.

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