Big Guns Arrive at Cancun Talks

In Americas, Governments & Politics, News Headlines

The climate change meeting in Cancun is entering the high-level stage, with heads of state and environment ministers arriving in the holiday city.

Despite the lacklustre results from Copenhagen a year ago, negotiators are at pains to stress Cancun will get the agenda back on track.

The expectations for this annual climate summit were never high, but after the tensions of Copenhagen simply having some countries in the same room is a bonus.

China’s chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, says the atmosphere at the Mexican resort town is relatively mild compared to Copenhagen, while Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of Australia’s Climate Institute, has likened it to the aftermath of an amicable divorce.

“Copenhagen was a tumultuous meeting and it’s almost as if we had a divorce, and now what we’re trying to do over this meeting is frame the settlement,” Mr Jackson said.

“At the moment people are being pretty amicable – we’re working out where the house is, who’s got the kids and those kinds of things.

“I think there’s a level, a spirit of cooperation that’s emerging between governments that we might get a good outcome from this meeting.”

With the Kyoto Protocol targets expiring in 2012, the debate so far has focused on who is prepared to sign up for another round.

Japan, Russia and Canada have said they are not on board.

Mr Xie spoke to a full press conference room and stressed China’s efforts to meet its targets.

But he reminded the press that China was still a developing nation with many of its residents living in poverty.

“Our cooperation and our consensus needs to be based on the mutual trust,” he said.

“I think that in the end the final result will be one that is achieved by the flexibility of all the parties and [comprised of] all the parties.

“We cannot achieve [a] result that only some members are happy [with] while others are worried.”

Changing dynamics

There was never any expectation that a binding agreement would come from this meeting of 194 participating countries.

Rather it was considered a chance to put the United Nations climate talks back on track.

The buoyancy that existed before Copenhagen has been missing in the 12 months since, and many believe Cancun offers an opportunity to restore the appetite for global action.

The dynamics of this conference are considerably different to Copenhagen.

Prime ministers and presidents have stayed home, leaving their environment ministers and negotiators to tackle the issue.

But Mr Jackson says that does not mean positive steps cannot be taken.

“The ultimate test to the meeting, however, will be can we capture the commitments in the UN system of all the major emitters?” he said.

He says it is important countries like the US and China are onboard.

“Without America you don’t get the Chinese, and without the Chinese you don’t get the Americans,” he said.

“People understand there’s a very difficult position in the US in terms of what their national government can do.

“People also recognise, I think, that America is acting to reduce pollution and drive clean energy investments, [but] it’s just not happening fast enough.

“And that’s why, ultimately, this negotiation process is going to take a while because we’ve made some political breakthroughs in Copenhagen, but we are on an ongoing negotiation track now.”

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