“You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me you need more time.”
Those words were spoken by Christina Ora, a youth delegate from the Solomon Islands to the plenary of COP 15 in Copenhagen last year. This year they are emblazoned on the backs of hundreds youth in blue T-shirts. Dozens of youth lined up to greet delegates this morning as they funnelled through the Cancunmesse on their way to the buses that carry them into the heavily secured Moon Palace for negotiations.
Once again there are numerous youth delegations at the COP, and once again they are providing the energy that so far is lacking from this negotiating session. While many governments have played down expectations, the youth, indigenous peoples, Small Island Developing States and others continue to point out that there isn’t a lot of time to waste if global emissions are to be brought under control.
There was a noisy youth demonstration here today with lots of colour and creativity as part of “Youth and Future Generations Day”. Unfortunately, few delegates heard it because most are over at the Moon Palace. They spent much of the day in contact groups behind closed doors.
Just what is happening there is a matter of some speculation and lots of corridor discussion. Earlier this morning there was little information circulating and some confusion over which version of text was being used for the negotiations – the one produced after the discussions in Tianjin, China, in October or a “chair’s text” circulated more recently. Late in the day we heard another negotiating text is being prepared and will be available on Saturday.
Given that many people think not much will happen here, it surprised some people to hear that the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) has challenged countries to deal with hard issues first. The usual approach is to “pick low-hanging fruit” and leave the tough bargaining for another time. In Cancun, this fruit includes a deal on deforestation, which is expected to happen, as well as technology transfer and financing. Depending on whom you talk to, even some of this low-hanging fruit is high up in the tree. The LAC chair is taking a chance – it may be that the strategy produces no deal at all. But it might just get this cumbersome body to rise to the challenge.
Meanwhile, Japan is still loved. Despite having announced it is not interested in extending the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, there is a big red heart on the wall of Cancunmesse saying, “We love you Japan” and “Don’t go”.
In making the announcement, a Japanese official said “it does not make sense” to extent Kyoto since the countries that it covers account for only 27% of GHG emissions. To achieve real global reductions, he said, countries need to build on the commitments under the non-binding Copenhagen Accord. The 140 countries that have made pledges under the accord account for 80% of global emissions.
This is just the kind of thing that makes the youth delegates here crazy. It sounds like time wasting and manoeuvring for political advantage. To them, it doesn’t sound like Japan – or many other nations – are serious about taking the steps needed to keep climate change under control.
They and many others hope the challenge to delegates to debate the tough issues first bears fruit.