New Zealand misbehaving in Cancun
Jessie Dennis – Cancun 6 Dec 2010
New Zealand has been misbehaving here in Cancun. This was confirmed on Wednesday when NZ got it’s first Fossil of the Day award; an award NGOs give out each day to the bullies and bad guys. But more on that later.
There was a big buzz around COP today as various groups within civil society have announced their concern with the informal group the Mexican President has set up to work on big picture issues such as who must act to reduce emissions, and how the Kyoto Protocol and long term agreement are combined or if they are at all. There are rumours this informal group (which has become known as the ‘non-existent group’) will produce a text which parties are pressured into agreeing to so as not to appear as blocking the process; which is exactly what happened last year in Copenhagen. Although governments such as New Zealand are insisting this group is open, there seems in fact to be much secrecy around where and when these meetings actually occur, who is and isn’t represented and what they are actually doing. Some are reporting that the US is pushing an incredibly weak text through this group; one which makes targets voluntary, moves away from the Bali Action Plan and could destroy the Kyoto Protocol altogether, which could unravel this process further. In some respects, it feels like we are in the calm before the storm. Nothing is yet certain but suspicions are mounting that the transparent process the Mexican Government has been touting in the media is in fact not so transparent at all.
Exclusion is not only occurring within the negotiating rooms. Civil society, especially the international youth delegations I have been working with, are becoming increasingly frustrated with what amounts to a disregard for freedom of speech and exclusion from the process. Within our rights as observer organisations we can hold activities on COP premises to make our voices heard. After all, that’s why we are here. However, the process involved in getting secretariat approval for any such activity is so strict and bureaucratic that many actions have been declined, some delayed and others forced to compromise on their messaging to such an extent that it renders them useless. There are three ridiculously small assigned spaces on the premises where any activity is aloud. You are literally forced to stand behind a barrier if you wish to hold any banner, give out a leaflet or make any noise. I could go on forever about the list of rules you must comply to before any activity is approved. Meetings I have been involved in about this have been very emotional. To put it bluntly, we’re pissed off. We didn’t come here to stand behind a barrier and ask politely if we can speak. We came to do what it takes. And the more we are silenced, the louder our voices are getting. In fact, tomorrow we will be making our voices heard loudly and creatively (and inside COP) on a issue very relevant to New Zealand; forestry. More on that tomorrow.
As I mentioned, New Zealand has been shown up as a bad guy by receiving a Fossil of the Day. They received it along with Russia, Ukraine and Australia for halting progress in negotiations around Russian ‘hot air’. What is this hot air I hear you ask? Well, under the Kyoto Protocol, countries targets to reduce emissions are based on 1990 levels. This means that credits have been allocated to Russia based on their huge economy prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, giving modern Russia a completely overblown number of credits when compared to its present economy. There has been an effort to remove these credits from circulation, as they do not accurately represent emission reductions. But countries such as New Zealand are not letting that happen. I certainly hope New Zealand is not planning to buy Russian ‘hot air’ targets to achieve our target…
That’s it for today from a very hot and sticky Cancun.