As the second week of climate negotiations begins, the Mexican government is preparing for the arrival of ministers and world leaders — and hoping to head off the same chaos that broke apart last year’s talks in Copenhagen.
During the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — or “COP 16″ — negotiators and world leaders in Cancún will seek consensus on climate change, carbon emission reductions, adaptation and mitigation.
Last Monday, negotiators began meeting and hammering out the minutia of the agreements. On Sunday, ministers and leaders from 193 countries began arriving and will be weighing in on the talks, which end on Friday.
At last year’s meeting, ministers and political leaders ended up hijacking the progress negotiators had been making — ultimately causing the talks to be deemed a failure.
Yesterday, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, president of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, spoke to delegates at the beginning of an informal “stock-taking” meeting. She emphasized the need for transparency and inclusiveness in the negotiating process and announced the creation of minister-level Working Groups:
Ministers will not be expected to draft compromise language, but to help identify where balance is to be found. Ministers will not convene informal sessions of any sort, but will instead approach every delegation they believe ought to be consulted at each specific moment and remain accessible to all. Ministers will not limit their contacts to other ministers, but will be open to dialogue with all and they will reach out to the representatives that each party has decided to appoint. Ministers will not relief [sic] the Chairs of their responsibilities in any way, but will support their efforts to resolve matters that have so far not advanced in a more formal setting.
Although it’s optimistic — to say the least — for the Mexican government to believe it can keep political leaders from thwarting any progress made by negotiators, the pairing of developed and developing nations into Working Groups is interesting:
Sweden and Grenada could help on matters related to shared vision; Spain and Algeria on adaptation; Australia and Bangladesh on finance, technology and capacity building; New Zealand and Indonesia on mitigation, including MRV, and the United Kingdom and Brazil on items under the Kyoto Protocol. Other ministers, among them those from Ecuador, Singapore, Norway and Switzerland could support on other specific issues as they arise.
(MRV, “Measurement, Reporting and Verification,” is the means by which countries can actually measure, report and verify any reductions in carbon emissions.)
In related news, a story in Sunday edition of the U.K.’s Guardian revealed just how sordid the climate change negotiations can be. In his investigative piece, Damian Carrington writes:
The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial “Copenhagen accord“, the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.
Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.
Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries’ negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental “treaty circumvention” and deals between nations.
Laura Paskus is an independent writer and editor who is reporting from Cancún as an Earth Journalism Network Climate Media Fellow.