The World will Gather in Cancun

26 Nov 2010

The world will gather in Cancun, Mexico, for two weeks starting on the 29th of November to try to hammer out a new climate change treaty. After what many people see as last year’s failure to achieve a treaty despite two years of intense preparatory work and negotiations that seemed never to end, there is a sense that not much will happen in Cancun.

Last year’s negotiations produced the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding agreement where the parties actually agreed to a lot, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

"For the first time ever, developed and developing countries acknowledged their responsibility to curb emissions of greenhouse gases... and agreed on the goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2° C. For the first time ever, countries made large pledges to finance mitigation and adaptation efforts.... For people on the front-lines of climate change, these were important steps".

Ban remains optimistic, but he says progress requires patience:

There is a lesson here. Let us not dream of big overnight breakthroughs. Let us not think, in the absence of immediate progress, that we are failing. Let us not misunderstand what it takes to bring about change in the world today.

But how much progress is enough? Many commentators are saying that the UNFCCC needs to show real progress or the world will lose faith that the process will be able to deliver anything. “The stakes are quite high for the U.N. in Cancun,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The focus will be on financing adaptation, protecting forests and other measures where negotiators think agreement is possible. The hard issues – long-term greenhouse gas reduction commitments, etc. – will be dealt with later.

But many participants in the Many Strong Voices Programme who live in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) feel that time is not on their side. Having been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as two of the world’s regions most vulnerable to rapid climate change, they want to see real progress that would deal with the rapid melting of multi-year sea ice and effects such as sea level rise, storm surges, salt water intrusion into fresh water supplies, etc.

MSV participants will be in Cancun. Among other things, MSV will hold a side event on Wednesday 1 December that links climate change, human rights and food security. Portraits of Resilience will exhibit new photos and stories from Fiji, Tuvalu and Seychelles. MSV will be working with partners to spread the word on what is happening in these two regions, push for action on reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and accelerating financial support for those faced with immediate adaptation needs – whether they be in the Arctic, SIDS or low-lying regions elsewhere.

Over the next two weeks we will continually update what is happening at Cancun and talk about what it means for the Arctic and SIDS through regular Blog and Twitter updates and postings of relevant and interesting material. There will be opportunities for others to post their ideas and react to what is happening in Mexico.

To follow John throughout the COP on Twitter, use the search term Manystrongvoices 
Follow GRID-Arendal activities at the COP here

 "A shrinking shoreline in the Seychelles" by  Lawrence Hislop


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