Day 2: Crystal ball gazing and strategizing
Today was strategy day. We headed out to the University of the Caribbean past the burgeoning hotel complexes on the sand spit that is Cancun.
Representatives of hundreds of NGOs flocked together under the umbrella of the Climate Action Network, filling the main lecture theatre to overflowing. Our intention was to develop a strategy for the meeting and try to work out what might happen at this negotiating session.
Four different potential scenarios were identified for these negotiations - going backwards (the regression scenario), drifting, lifeless negotiations (the zombie scenario), a glimmer of hope and progress (the lifeline scenario) or meaningful progress (the momentum scenario) with clear outcomes under each of these.
Our intention of course is to do everything we can to facilitate the momentum scenario during these two weeks. Indeed, the Cancun negotiations are the chance to restore credibility for the UN climate process and secure meaningful building blocks towards a full climate deal in Durban, South Africa next year. However, much will depend on the US-China dynamic, the willingness from all sides to be prepared to compromise and perhaps a little fear on what will happen if we don't. News out today is of permafrosts melting far faster than previously expected, releasing huge amounts of methane, a potent global warming gas. We can only hope this will shock negotiators into stopping putting national interests ahead of those of us all.
Mel and John
Two of our colleagues are in Cancun. Over the next ten days we'll be sharing their thoughts and experiences from the talks first-hand.
Day 1: Lurking with intentToday we found out that an exclusive group of land and forests negotiators from rich countries were having a secret pre-meet in a posh hotel nearby. They issued a late invitation to some developing countries to join but only three attended and civil society was definitely not invited. We decided to go along anyway and set ourselves up in the corridor outside the room where they were meeting.
When we'd recovered from a serious case of hotel envy (it was rather fabulous with beautiful pools and dripping with chandeliers), we caught up with some of the negotiators over lunch time to get a sense of the discussions happening behind closed doors.
We joked with them that being excluded was turning us into stalkers but the serious point was also made that conversations happening behind closed doors gives no opportunity for civil society to engage or be able to scrutinise the discussions. And we know they are cooking up ways to cheat in accounting for emissions from their land and forests so being barred is always cause for concern. Their counter to this is that only without observers present are they able to say what they really think!
We chatted to them for an hour or so, during which they kindly shared some of their lunch with us, then the doors shut again and we headed back along the beach to our somewhat less glamorous hotel.
The climate talks have opened once again in Cancun today, and this year forests will be centre stage. Hence the conference logo this time round - a lush green tree with a massive butterfly fluttering alongside it. It’s nice to see biodiversity being remembered!
No one expects a climate deal to be agreed and signed by the 200 or so Governments round the negotiating table in Cancun, as we did in Copenhagen. Instead the focus is on progress and creating a constructive atmosphere that will lead to the big deal this time next year in South Africa.
But there are some parts of the deal that could be finalised in Cancun, and they will determine whether forests can become part of the global solution to climate change. There are two key parts to this discussion: what we can do to save forests in developing countries and how to manage greenhouse gas emissions from forestry in developed counties.
Protecting natural forests in developing countries is a must if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and save the world’s wildlife. A good outcome for the ‘REDD’ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation’) negotiations with tight safeguards could take us a long way towards this. You can see previous posts for more detail.
Less promising are the rules that countries are currently negotiating that will determine how emissions from forestry and land management in developed countries are accounted for and how they contribute to emission targets.In summary, the leading proposals add up to what would be a great forest fiddle – they would allow about half a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions annually to be unaccounted for and completely ignored. The RSPB is the only UK organisation in Cancun campaigning on the issue, here’s what my colleague Melanie Coath, who is in Cancun said:
“Countries like Canada, Russia and Australia may have publicly pledged to reduce their carbon emissions, but this clever scam means they can hide the massive climate impact of their logging industries.
“Logging forests is a major contributory factor to climate change – and it must be accounted for alongside energy production and transport. If this wood is then used to help the UK government meet its green energy targets then that would be a major environmental fudge.
“This is a con - pure and simple. If these rules are not tightened up then any targets agreed, whether at Cancun or after, will be seriously undermined.”
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