COP 16: Breakout Groups

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Huffington Post

Cancún, Mexico -- As the COP 16 kicked into high gear with high level ministers beginning to pour over the draft negotiations texts, Mexican President Calderón sought to avert discussions from stalling into gridlock by asking countries to meet in smaller working groups. (It was an attempt to break larger negotiating blocks into smaller groups.)

Additionally, heads of states have started to arrive. Twenty to twenty-five countries are expected to attend. This afternoon, heads of state will provide brief statements to a plenary high-level segment of the meetings. They will discuss final draft texts tomorrow and Friday.

Meanwhile, reports of adverse climate change continue to gather apace. On Monday, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) held a press conference, during which they presented the direct consequences of global warming on Latin America and the Caribbean, such as melting glaciers and increased drought.

Yesterday, the UNEP released a report, delineating the effects of climate change specifically on mountain glaciers. These effects would lead, one the one hand, to floods and, on the other hand, to droughts. The report delineated that rainfall would be at once more sporadic and intense. (Bill McKibben discusses this effect on the opening pages of Earth.) As the report reveals, these effects are already being felt now.

Also yesterday afternoon, UNEP released the Emissions Gap Report, which seeks to assess how the state of emissions reductions after Copenhagen, given the commitments made through the Copenhagen Accord.

The report takes what after Copenhagen was taken as a benchmark, that is, a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) maximum temperature increase above pre-industrial (1990) levels.

It is an attempt to take into account modeling and scientific analysis from around the world. As Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP and UN undersecretary, put it, "scientific institutions worldwide produce analyses. From time to time, different models need to be brought together."

The report found that if the voluntary commitments were to be implemented, then the emissions would be sixty percent over where the world needs to be by 2020, if the worst effects of global warming are to be averted.

Steiner told the Nation:

"For the UNEP, this program also presents an attempt to present the public what we are trying to deal with. Climate is not only about stopping something only, it is also about doing things differently. And with this report, we hope to show the public that we can do something differently."

As an indication of Calderón's call for nations to work together, in order to negotiate, individual nations refused to address the details of where the negotiating process was at: Indian Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh, in India's press conference this afternoon, Ramesh stated that only questions related to its domestic policy would be accepted; Bolivia canceled its press conference altogether; and Brazil delicately waltzed around any requests for more detailed information.

As thousands of people marched today on the COP-16 climate summit to condemn the false solutions and backroom deals being pushed in the negotiations, solidarity actions unfolded in over 100 cities around the world. The march was organized by La Via Campesina, the world's largest federation of peasant and smallholder farmers, and was the anchor action of the 1000 Cancúns Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.

Mary Lou Malig from La Via Campesina told the Nation that the group was demonstrating to remind of "the relationship between environmental devastation and its effects on the global south. I am based in Jakarta, in Southeast Asia, where we are already witnessing the effects of climate change daily."

Kate Fulton, Youth for Climate Justice, said:

"We stand here in solidarity with the global south, in solidarity with impacted people around the world, in solidarity with Via Campesina." "We are here," she told the Nation, "to make the voices of the young people, who will most be impacted by climate change."

As negotiations ratchet up, will they be able to offer this younger generation what is needed for its survival?

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic, who has covered international climate change negotiations, most recently in Copenhagen and Bonn. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.