withoutyourwalls exclusive : report back from Cancun from Jessie Dennis of camp for climate action Aotearoa
State of play at COP16
Jessie Dennis – COP16 Cancun – 7th Dec 2010
Surprise surprise: the real deals here are happening secretly behind closed doors. 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 about this text, 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, and this is going to be a big repeat performance of Copenhagen.
Talks on various issues like LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry: the policy which countries like New Zealand are designing to hide their forestry emissions and gain credits for chopping down forests), have begun to fall apart in confusion: again, it seems that on these issues ministers are going to step in and have bilateral meetings to seal deals which suit them, then pressure other countries to sign on.
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. 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.
COP-16 is half over. The thousands of people here to ‘negotiate’ on behalf of their governments will be leaving at the end of this week. They’ll travel back to their respective countries and be praised for working hard, long hours for the duration of COP-16. They’ve probably wracked up some days in leiu while they’ve been here, and maybe they’ll take a few when they get home.
Meanwhile, there will be other groups on their way home too. There’ll be people who may have to inform their community that REDD got finalized and that their home may soon be up for sale to the highest bidder. Kandi, a woman I have met from the Indigenous Environmental Network will be going back to her community, which is suffering from skyrocketing cancer rates because of pollution from local industry who will report that carbon trading is alive and well, and countries will still be buying offsets abroad so that pollution can continue. The various young people I have met from places on the front lines of climate change will have the job of task of explaining to those at home that no, there wasn’t a deal that will help stop the droughts, the floods or the loss of their agricultural land upon which they depend.
I am currently sitting in a meeting with big international NGOs. With a week still to go, a brainstorm is taking place about how messaging will be framed when there is no real progress. Expectations are so low here, they barely exist at all. There is no bridge between those negotiators going home to complain of long hours and the people who are here for survival. This conference has been described as a much reduced group of tired, bored negotiators going through the motions.