SCCS blog from Cancun climate change negotiations - week 2

The UN climate change talks are now underway in Cancun, Mexico. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland will be represented at the conference by Lang Banks of WWF Scotland and Lexi Barnett of SCIAF to try to promote the example set by the Scottish Climate Change Act, which is currently the strongest climate change legislation in the world. We'll be reporting back via this web blog each day.

Lang Banks and Lexi Barnett at UN climate change conference

Day 13 - by Lexi Barnett from SCIAF - Saturday 11th December 2010

While we came to Cancun with low expectations following the "car crash" of last year's summit in Copenhagen, it appears our path towards a fair, ambitious and binding legal agreement is back on track.

Delegates as the Cancun climate talks draw to a close

It's important to bear in mind that much work needs to be done between now and South Africa to build on the foundations laid here in Cancun.

In particular, more work needs to be done on clarifying ambitious and binding emission reduction targets for industrialised countries, as well as on ensuring clear pledges of finance, accessible to real people on the ground, are on the table to help developing countries adapt and survive.

There was much to-ing and fro-ing on the final day of the conference with new texts on the two main tracks being presented to delegates in the afternoon - on both Kyoto Protocol and Long-term co-operative action.

On the positive side, the final agreement brings together a near global consensus on the urgent need to curb greenhouse gas emissions in line with science to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees C. It also recognised wealthy industrialised countries’ ‘historical’ responsibility for creating the climate change problem and establishes mechanisms for transferring funds from rich to poor countries to spend on climate protection. It also set out parameters for reducing emissions from deforestation and for transferring clean technology to developing countries.

The Mexican hosts should stand up and take a bow for the inclusive way they have managed these negotiations.

President of the talks, Patricia Espinosa, asked negotiators to take the texts and look at them with a desire for progress and a willingness to compromise. She has been widely praised for keeping the talks on track, transparent and fair. She even received a standing ovation from the delegates in the room for her plea for openness and progress, and a second standing ovation later in the evening when addressing the open plenary where nations were due to feed back their views on the texts. Each nation that spoke began with a warm tribute to the Mexican hosts for their work on keeping things moving in a positive way.

We are still miles from where we need to be, but a transparent and positive process, including an obvious willingness from most nations to achieve something meaningful here, has avoided a repeat of last year’s Copenhagen's shambles.

At least now we are on a steady course for achieving the global deal so desperately needed by the end of 2011.


Day 11 - by Lang Banks from WWF Scotland - Thursday 9th December 2010

It's almost midnight and I am on a bus, having just left the Moon Palace, the location of the climate talks.

Inside I leave a handful of colleagues who have volunteered to remain inside over night, or until any new texts emerge. I will get some shut eye and be back first thing to prepare for the final full day of talks.

The day started positively enough with news emerging of a proposal from some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. What made it even better was that the EU had reached out to support them. Finally, we seemed to be seeing some of the leadership that once was commonly associated with Europe on the issue of climate change.

Bolivian president Evo Morales had the place abuzz at the morning press conferences, being followed everywhere by his colourful crowd of indigenous supporters - several sporting "Follow Scotland - 42% by 2020" badges. Pachamama would certainly have approved.

However, midway through the day standard operating geopolitical procedures seemed to have resumed and things began to slide backwards. Soon my email in-box was filling with accounts from our team of experts, alongside news from friendly contacts within delegations, that some nations were once again to trying to mess around with the process at these UN talks. Things have begun to go so badly wrong here that even UK minister Chris Huhne, who was given leave to remain at the talks after successful lobbying of party leaders by NGOs, probably began wondering whether it might not have been better to return to the UK to face snow, student protests and burning Christmas trees in Trafalgar Square.

So, a bit like my visit to the Moon Palace medical centre today where they unhelpfully suggested an asprin to treat my very swollen, mosquito-bitten ankle, the medicine world leaders are currently suggesting for curing the world's climate is totally inadequate.

Worse still, a new independent analysis of the proposals that have so far emerged here in Cancun suggest them to be so full of loopholes that industrialised countries could even escape having to cut emissions at all for the next decade! Read the analysis here. But with one day of negotiations left, countries still have time to choose a better scenario, reduce the size of loopholes and save the climate.

In the end, the only pretty thing here today was a massive rainbow that appeared after a short intense shower. With Friday's talks expected to be run throughout the day and into Saturday morning, I sincerely hope its not the last ray of hope I see here in Cancun.

Read today's edition of the ECO daily Cancun newsletter: ECO 09/12/10.


Day 10 - by Lexi Barnett from SCIAF - Wednesday 8th December 2010

Today the Scottish Government held a press conference together with the Maldives to announce a new initiative, working together on renewable energies.

Afterwards I spoke to the Maldivian Environment Minister, Mohamed Aslam and asked him how he felt the negotiations in Cancun were progressing, given his country’s extreme vulnerability to rising sea levels (the Maldives are a low-lying island nation that could disappear altogether in just a matter of years!).

He told me that he thought that there was still a possibility for good progress form the talks, and that he was impressed with the Scottish commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020. He commended it as an act of leadership that is sorely lacking in these negotiations.

In other news, we heard today that the UK Secretary of State for Climate change, Chris Huhne, would not be called back to the UK after all! So we’re following developments on that at the moment, and will push for a meeting. We want to make sure he knows what he needs to do.

Elsewhere, we heard that Spain has come out to join a growing number of countries that want the EU to increase its ambition by going to 30% cuts to emissions by 2020. This is good news, as these negotiations need more nations to speak out about their positions, as we’ve seen a lot of country delegations saying things behind the scenes, but getting a wee bit shy when it comes to speaking out loud for other nations to hear!

I also attended a learning exchange meeting today where Latin American and African partners of SCIAF and our Irish sister agency, Trocaire, met together to share their expertise on methods for helping poor communities in poorer countries to adapt to climate change. It was fascinating to hear how much expertise and knowledge was shared, with the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance advising the Central American Movement for People Affected by Climate Change on how they built their movement, and hearing how community radio stations in El Salvador could be used in rural Kenya.

I know I’ve said it before, but leaving that meeting today really emphasised that these voices from the global south are the voices of the real climate change experts, and we need to make every effort to ensure they’re heard at these negotiations.

While certainly these talks are making significant and positive progress, more still needs to be done to iron out the disappointing elements and ensure that a deal is done that will truly represent climate justice for the world’s poor.

Read today's edition of the ECO daily Cancun newsletter: ECO 08/12/10.


Day 9 - by Lang Banks of WWF Scotland - Tuesday 7th December 2010

I should have known it was going to be one of those days. Amongst the clean laundry returned to my hotel room was someone else's underwear. Someone else's pants to be precise!

Nevertheless, I still had high hopes for the day. Many big political hitters had arrived in Cancun and begun exerting their influence over the various draft texts that their official negotiators had been preparing throughout the previous week.

As well as briefing media and updating them on the latest intelligence gathered by our team of experts I occasionally got the chance to offer up a Scottish perspective on these talks. However, I'm not entirely sure what the population of Fiji will make of my contribution to their TV network. I'm sure it'll probably need subtitles however.

Even less clear is deciding what progress, if any, is being made at these talks as most meetings are now taking place behind closed doors. Apart from snippets of information passed on by friendly delegates the only other way to take the temperature of things here is the daily round of official press conferences. The U.S., Bolivia and India were all up today.

Of particular interest to those in the UK was the worrying rumour going round the talks that UK environment minister, Chris Huhne, might have to leave in order to support the coalition government on the tuition fees debate later this week. He certainly didn't deny it when I overheard him speaking to a journalist as he left a press conference.

This is deeply concerning as Huhne has been given one of the most critical jobs to do here - steering, along with his Brazilian counterpart, a good outcome on the Kyoto Protocol. The success of this is an issue of paramount importance to the entire world. NGOs sincerely hope he will stay to finish this job. If he left then it really would be pants for us all!

Lang Banks meets actress Daryll Hannah at the climate talks in Cancun

In spite of this threat to the entire talks, the day actually finished on a high. At an evening event to discuss the threats being faced by coral reefs from pollution and climate change I got an opportunity to meet U.S. film actress Daryl Hannah (of Splash and Bladerunner fame). Earlier she had given a really impassioned speech on the need to protect the marine environment from the threats of ocean acidification. Better still, she warmly accepted a bottle of the special "42% proof" climate whisky - created to celebrate Scotland's world leading climate law of 42% emissions reductions by 2020 - and talked of her pride that Scotland was prepared to lead on climate change.

So, who knows what tomorrow will bring for the fate of the world's climate and my unintentional collection of other peoples' underwear. I do really hope it's not more pants, courtesy of UK ministers this time.

You can view our interview with Daryl Hannah on climate change here.

Read today's edition of the ECO daily Cancun newsletter: ECO 07/12/10.


Day 8 - By Lexi Barnett from SCIAF - Monday 6th December 2010

The second and final week of the negotiations opens today, with ministers arriving to – hopefully - make the big political decisions prepared last week by the negotiating teams. Today saw the EU clarify their position, as well as an announcement that UK Secretary of State for climate change, Chris Huhne, will be co-chairing this week’s discussions on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Firstly, the EU has stated that they will continue to push for “a balanced package”, and re-emphasised the importance of increasing the level of greenhouse gas reductions targets. While the confusion over reductions pledges continues, we need to hear stronger positions from countries in support of “anchoring” these reduction targets in the UN process. While we welcome this statement from the EU, as we know that stronger emissions reductions targets are essential, we need to hear from more countries in support of this.

At the moment, the atmosphere at the talks is one of reluctance - no-one seems to want to stick their neck out and strongly state what they really want.

Nations definitely have a fear of being blamed for any stalling or slowing down of the negotiations, so any statements they are making are being made quietly.

The fear for us then is that this will continue until the end of the week and nations will creep towards an outcome at Cancun that is not ambitious enough, and that will lock in slow progress until at least next year’s negotiations. So, more strong statements from the UK and EU on increasing ambition on reductions targets, and reminders of the need for countries to be prepared to compromise and accept a balanced outcome please!

Meanwhile, we met with members of the delegation from Tuvalu to explain Scotland’s world-leading climate change legislation, and to extend a hand of solidarity and support in the shape of a bottle of Scottish 42% whisky. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland teamed up with a distillery to create “The Year 2020” whisky, which celebrates Scotland’s emissions targets of 42% reductions in greenhouse gases by 2020. This is in line with what science, and justice, says is necessary.

Delegation from Tuvalu discusses the world-leading Scotitsh Climate Change Act with Lexi Barnett of SCIAF/SCCS

Tuvalu, a low-lying island in the Pacific, faces the very real prospect of disappearing under rising sea levels in the coming decades. When facing the reality that entire nations could be made uninhabitable in a matter of years, the urgency of progress at these talks becomes frighteningly real.

Read today's edition of the ECO daily Cancun newsletter: ECO 06/12/10.

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