Buenas noches de Cancun, where Day 1 of COP16 ends in a mishmosh of mucha confusión, conexiones pobres de Internet y los problemas de transporte that befuddle the mind, even of the most seasoned climate negotiator.
Adopt a Negotiator? How about find one? Coercing one to talk to you on the record? No small feat, considering the fact that those press credentials I was expecting were not forthcoming on my arrival last night. Turns out my stint as a member of tck's official reporting team affords me "Observor" status. Meaning I get coveted access to Cancunmesse, the spectacular array of COP16 side events and unlimited access to the hundreds of NGOs huddling under one roof in this huge new convention complex.
No small feat, catching an interview with official delegates, who are already separated from the press in the official Moon Palace talks four miles away. Still, they all have to pass through Cancunmesse at least twice a day as they shuttle off behind the Mexican government's extraordinarily 'military curtain.'
Ah, but quizá they have no idea what they are in for when they grant an old school reporter even limited access. In New York, to get a story you had to have cahones grande! For me, that meant the work day began en route to work.
Wherein I post a sneak preview of my story written this morning for tck. It's not yet up on the site. So who knows? Maybe it's a Kos exclusive!
Trapped on the bus with Kuwaiti Delegate
While almost everyone attending COP16 hopes to fast track and ensure real solutions, spending two hours trapped on a bus with participants heading to the Cancunmesse gives me a rare opportunity to chat with someone with an alternative point of view.
The traffic jam on the Cancun-Chetumal road starts immediately as the Number 2 bus crosses the bridge from the luxurious Hotel Zone to merge onto the main road towards the Cancun Airport. It's 8:30 am on Day 1 of COP16 -- rush hour in Cancun -- and the bus is almost full of negotiators, NGOs and press, all eager to easily segue through security screening at Cancunmesse and hop on an early shuttle to the Moon Palace Opening ceremony.
As we look out at a seamless caravan of cars, vans, large trucks and flat backs in a syncopated virtual standstill, it's obvious that their hopes are in serious jeopardy.
Already, a new and unexpected wrinkle has appeared in the puzzle of COP16. In its planning of this Conference of the Parties, the Mexican government designed the two-week event utilizing a 'scatter plot,' hosting the NGOs at the Messe, some seven miles from the Hotel Zone and the official UNFCCC talks at the Moon Palace, 4 miles from the Messe and only accessible via shuttle from the Messe. All this, some say, to safeguard against the co-mingling of UNFCCC officials, NGOS, climate activists and the local population which characterized last December's COP15 talks in Copenhagen.
Apparently, they didn't consider how to transport delegates in a timely manner to participate in talks along a highway already bloated with local traffic.
Behind me, a Russian negotiator, meticulously attired in the officially sanctioned attire for women, a white "Guayabera" shirt over cotton top and trousers, is frantic on her cell phone. She breaks into English to call out to an official seated in the front row: "How long is the ride?" He turns to her "Habla español? No English." She returns to her cell phone.
Just beside her on the opposite side of the bus, a Kuwaiti negotiator, here to participate in the panel on technology transfer, chuckles.
"That's the least of our problems," he says.
I had traveled this same route last evening, a few hours after my arrival in Cancun, to pick up my accreditations at the Messe. No one at the hotel knew anything about shuttles, so I hoped in a taxi as the sun set in a spectacular snapshot to my left.
"They are not going to let me in to the Messe," he says. "It's going to take us quite some time to get there because of all the check points," the driver warned "And I'm going to have to drop you off on the street. We're not allowed into the parking lot."
The Mexican government, he says, has bussed in hundreds of men from around the country to help out with security during the conference. I can see at random stops outside my window, gathering fencing to erect barricades.
Last night, my letter from tck with its vital bar code ID gained us passage through at least three checkpoints, all manned by the machine gun wielding Mexican military who were backed up by tanks and trucks languishing in the darkness alongside the road. Occasionally, the scrutinized silhouette of a targeted traveler emerged in a spotlight, standing behind the open trunk of his car.
We start chatting. He says it’s his first COP and he's nervous. He's from the IT sector and is representing Kuwait's petroleum industry. He has spent many, many hours preparing. It is plastics, he believes, that are the real problem.
"It's all about the economy right now. We cannot expect the world to change how they do things quickly. It just won't happen.
In Kuwait, right now there are three huge projects underway which are funded by multinational organizations. Big ones like Dow Chemical."
He shrugs. "What can you say to Dow Chemical?"
He is impressed, however, by how the huge corporations are offsetting their carbon emissions.
We pass by a Mexican family hurrying to set up a roadside food stand under a huge green awning alongside a McDonalds and a 711.
"We need to give this one hundred years," he says. "It will take that long for people to adapt to the changes we need to make."
"But we don't have 100 years," I respond.
He shrugs and looks out the window. By 9:30, as the traffic shows no signs of letting up, both of his legs are jiggling in nervous anticipation.
When we arrive at the Messe at 10:10, he is first off the bus. In a frenzy to be at the front of the line to pass through security.
When it comes to his role at COP16, obviously, the concept of one hundred years is not on the agenda.
Speculating on Carbon & The New Climate Debt
I stopped off to pick up literature at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, where the major focus is on the proper funding of climate mitigation, technology transfer and climate debt. IATP outlines its concerns in an article Will they get it right in Cancun? which highlights the release of their "Climate and Agriculture" series.
Note: Click on embedded links to get a sense of the "oh too familiar" big picture.
CANCÚN, MEXICO – Governments attending the global climate talks in Cancún, which begin today, need to abandon loophole-ridden carbon markets and support bottom-up climate solutions that integrate equity, food security and democratic participation, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
Today, IATP released a new series of papersfocusing on agriculture and climate change. The series covers issues related to agricultural practices, climate finance and adaptation strategies. IATP is sending six staff members to the United Nations climate talks in Cancún and is hosting an official side event on climate-friendly agriculture, as well as speaking at a number of civil society workshops.
"Climate negotiators, led by the U.S., are too distracted by trying to set up unworkable rules for a new carbon market that will primarily benefit big financial players and the big polluting countries," said IATP President Jim Harkness. "We need to get back to basics by strengthening commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supporting local efforts and fulfilling funding obligations to countries struggling to adapt to the effects of climate change."
Linkages: Cancún Climate Change Conference: Daily Web Coverage/Daily Reports
IISD Reporting Services (IISD RS) is producing daily web coverage, daily reports, and a summary and analysis of the meeting.
A COP16 Cheat Sheet