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COP Day 8 - Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

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08 Dec 2010
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Negotiations continued as the High Level segment involving Ministers from dozens of countries kicked off at the Cancun climate change talks. Mayan dancers and musicians staged an intricate tableau which ended with a young boy holding a single green tree in a pot. UN Secretary Ban ki-Moon and Mexican President Filipe Calderone then took turns at the podium.

“Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Ban exhorted representatives of more than 170 nations gathered in the vast plenary hall at Moon Palace. It’s time to reach agreement on those things that can be agreed upon, he said, in order to form the basis of a broader, binding agreement next year in South Africa.

No more delays, he said. “We need results now.”

Time is the Enemy of the Ice

The issue of time and the need for urgent action came through today in an assessment report released at a press conference by UNEP. Mountain Glaciers and Climate Change is a joint project of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), CICERO and GRID-Arendal. Its main finding is that overall there is a global glacial melt going on and this threatens the water upon which millions of people rely for drinking and irrigation. The report can be downloaded from the GRID website.

The press conference was attended by Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim who announced 75 million Norwegian Kroner over five years to support continued research and development of adaptation strategies in the Himalaya region. There was considerable media interest and versions of the story have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Agence France Press, Reuters and other places.

My Last Meal at Cancunmesse

There is a market in Cancunmesse, the large trade centre where most of the side events are held. I’ve passed it several times without stopping. Since this is my last day at the COP, I stopped.

After bargaining down the price of packages of coffee and chocolate (and getting a decent “Cancunmesse price” – about twice what it would be in the market in Cancun) I was offered mescal. This is an alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant with a worm in the bottle. The drink is served with a reddish shredded substance that looked a little like saffron but which Wikipedia indicates is likely shredded dried worm. Mmmm. Fortunately, the mescal washed it down quickly and there was no aftertaste.

“Here, try this,” said one of the two indigenous women plying the chocolate-coffee-mescal trade. She held out a small bag of rust-coloured fibres. “Just put it right in your mouth.”

I did and chewed. It was garlicky and a bit salty. The merchant levelled her gaze at me and said: “Grasshopper.”

Really? Mmmm. How interesting, I said as I took an offered roasted garlic clove and popped it into my mouth. Voilà! No more grasshopper taste.

The young woman explained that grasshoppers are a staple in her state of Oaxaca. We don’t have a lot of meat, she said, and maize, beans and grasshoppers are an important part of the regional diet. Besides, she said with a smile, if people eat the grasshoppers, the grasshoppers don’t eat the people’s food.

It’s amazing what one learns at climate change negotiations.

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