Experiences of International climate negotiations

Another update from Luke – the official ‘youngest person at the COP16 conference’ – love seeing it all through his eyes…

Hi Guys!

This conference has been an eye-opening experience for me recently as to where real climate change adaptation is likely to take place, and by far the most opportunity lies at grassroots community level, which makes what we’re doing seem all the more important. At the international level is seems unlikely anyone will enter a second commitment period under Kyoto unless the developed countries (primarily the US) take the lead. The US wants to see ‘voluntary commitments’ and measuring of success by ‘how well we meet those  commitments instead of measuring actual reductions’ which is ludicrous and would see developed countries make pledges of around 4-8% rather than the 40-80% needed in a second commitment period to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees! even if they could, the negotiators have said “we could never agree to how much should be pledged by nations in an adaptation fund” which is what the global public sees as a success in Cancun.

I asked the panel “Do you believe that we can properly address the issue of climate change using market mechanisms? (that is the carbon trading proposed under LULUCF and REDD+) given the current state of a global economy based on exponential growth on a finite planet?”. Their answer was a straightforward, honest and said one with out even any hesitation, as if a great burden was being released off their (the negotiations) shoulders.

“No”. “It never has done, it is not working now, and it never will work in future”.

And then, while I was still in a state of utter disbelief that they would have the decency to say that, a second panelist stated “The road to hell is often paved with good intentions”! It made for a very heated discussion! (while the cameras started to click away…). They ended the session on a positive note by literally saying that “Our best chance is in resilient community action”. I should trust my intuition more often. The same plenary panel has decided right there and then to continue the discussion in an open press briefing with media from across the world present tonight at 6pm (1pm today NZ time), and I intend to ask the same question, while introducing myself as the ‘youngest person at this conference’ which I found out I am! Hopefully the panel will be just as honest in front of global media.

We, as part of the Youth zero carbon strategies working group are planning some very important actions. We are firstly writing and handing out a ‘real’ agenda at the conference highlighting what really should be on the table in terms of UNFCCC workings. Then we are proposing an action right outside the Azteca Plenary hall at the Moon Palace with a guy in a business suit with UNFCCC written on it standing at a tap, with a sign saying ‘SUPPLY’ and then a hose to a swimming pool of large container where there is a youth member holding the end of the running hose with a sign next to him/her saying “DEMAND”. In the role play the youth asks the unfccc to “turn off the tap” but the unfccc refuses to do so, and instead asks the youth to stop it (ie; try to control demand). After trying 101 ways including water balloons and sellotape and countless others it is given up and the container overflows. Visually communicating that the only way to limit GHG’s in the atmosphere is to control supply rather than demand. This group is being led by a friend of mine named Kjell, who I joke about as being a ‘universal translator’ because he speaks 8 languages, fluently!

So keepin it brief… I gtg. But i have also left my contact details with the UNESCO reps here in Cancun. :p


Travel update from Luke

Ola Amigos!

I have been enjoying myself very, very much these past few days. I finally met up with the UNESCO people here in Cancun and sure enough one of them had been to Waiheke before and so knew the place well and gave me some clear advice. Sounds like Colin’s got his facts right that’s for sure, and we’re doing all the best things to do, and not rushing the process which is good. I have got the card of the head guy in Paris who co-chairs UNESCO.  Appears the best thing to do to raise public profile would be to invite the NZ branch people or some people from Noosa Biosphere reserve over.

COP 16 is all over for me now! No more plenaries thank you very much, and no more IPCC, ODEAC, UNFCCC, SBSTA, or KP, COY, and whatever else comes to mind. But the second lot of us will be going in from tomorrow and I will be playing an important motherly role in making packed lunches out of dinner leftovers from the night before, reading through the daily programme and sorting out what we need to be going to as a delegation and at what times, and acting as daily coordinator for the next 3 days. Everyone will feed into me what their plans are for the day around breakfast. I am still keeping myself as busy as ever, and I have a whole day side conferencia in a 5-star hotel called the ‘Rio Cancun’ from 9-5 tomorrow on the ethics behind climate change and the ethics behind the UNFCCC workings, which I consider to be very important in addressing the issue since it is more a moral and ethical issue than a political issue.

I also finally got permission for our garden hose extraction action at the Palace! But the secretariat are so stringent they won’t even allow us to have water! It’s paranoia if you ask me. Oh well, there’s the Via Campesina march tomorrow down Ave Tulum which last year had 40,000 participants and this will test them to the extreme, provided there are as many people as last year, it’s so hard to tell. The caravans have taken over in the last two days, after passing through all of mexico over the past few months… I bet they’ll bring out the tanks after all. A lot of people have lost faith in the negotiations and so all the activists that camped outside Copenhagen last year aren’t here this year, but there are more people at the actual conference, with the rumors pointing at around 45,000. We’re gonna use water anyway, because I’m the one held accountable for it and I’m not in the conference anymore so they can’t kick me out, and so I say yes. We’re painting some banners and stuff tonight.

I have been invited to stay on a floating island made out of plastic bottles just off Isla Mujeres sometime this week. The bottles are held together in nets and the island built on top, apparently there’s a cottage, a waterfall and even mangroves growing on this tropical island, and Kjell is friends with the guy who built it. It is very cool and you can check it out on Wikipedia. It is the second one this guy has built cause his first was destroyed by a hurricane. I am also going to visit a REDD forest and the indigenous people that live there, on Thursday on a Mexican govt tour, and I’m also hoping to visit Chichen Itza before I go so it makes for quite a lot of day tripping! (more investigation continues at Soberani’s tomorrow).

I have been getting out and about a bit more often lately, there’s been more on around town. I went to the YOUNGO party at Klimaforum on Thursday night for a start. It was about 12km into the rainforest in a place very much like Te Moata, except with a massive open grass field. They had a funky reggae band there who put on a really good show, and we spent our time dancing the night away. There were also these people who did gymnastics with fire, and one girl who did the hula with her hoop on fire, it was amazing.

But by far saturday night was the best. All the NGO’s (non- government organizations) banded together and hired out Senior Frogs for the yearly NGO party. The whole place was pumping! Just to top it all off they had yet another street festival last night, and we watched some of the Mexicans breakdancing in the park.  They are erecting a massive Christmas tree in the middle of the plaza this week, which made it all the more enjoyable. I can consider myself spoilt rotten. All this time I never drunk more than one pina cilata!

The thing I enjoy most about mexico is everything that is happening around you. Just walking down my normal route to Soberani’s on Ave Coba today there’s the usual traffic and I get passed by a bus that was so overloaded with people there were guys hanging out the open door waiting to pay their fare as the bus is moving. The whole pavement and most of the street is flooded in ankle-deep water because the water mains burst last night and there’s this poor builder knelled over on the pavement with 8 different cement and tool filled buckets floating around him as he tries desperately to fix it. I witness a guy stealing from the street vendor as she has her back turned and just to top it off as I’m admiring the craziness of this situation I realize the cause for the traffic hold up, turns out this guy’s mini isn’t starting and I find myself pushing it down the street for him with a bus behind me as he jumps in and tries to start it. Only after a guy came running out of a restaurant literally with a spatula in hand to help me push did we finally get it going!

I’ve learnt my fair share of what to be careful of while here. The open world is a lot different to NZ and unfortunately you just can’t trust anyone.