The “success” of the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun

- Liz Law

After the media circus around COP15 in Copenhagen, COP16 barely managed a blip on the radar.

What was it like? Interesting. Absurd. Atrocious. Intriguing. These words would all fit the bill.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, and still am not quite sure what to make of it.

The setting

There was strong indication that there was not to be a repeat of the Copenhagen circus. For one, there was to be no snow, only the long white sand and turquoise blue of Caribbean beaches. From the opening the ES Cristiana Figueres made it clear that they had every intention of achieving an agreement in Cancun, if only to create the impression that the UNFCCC process can achieve something. Compromise was strongly pushed. She also made strong statements regarding transparency of the process, a response to the backlash against the closed doors in previous meetings.

The spatial allocation of venues was clearly an exercise in avoiding any “incident” – such as negotiators and diplomats meeting with demonstrations and protestors. The main negotiations took place at an exclusive resort, miles from anywhere, quite isolated from the public by multiple security checkpoints, and surrounded by military on both land and sea. At over US$500 a night, and limited capacity, you can imagine how this would restrict the people who could stay on location. Media offices were so far from the main rooms that they had to have a mini bus to take them there, and the closed doors and restricted capacities in some rooms seemed to be intentional strategic barriers for many attendees.

The side events were held at a different venue, about 30 mins away from both the city and the main negotiation venue. Again strictly controlled by a military presence, there was virtually no opportunity for non-conference attendees to make any sort of presence there. They really should be called “sideshows”, they are an eclectic series of random events from industry promotions, science reports, advocacy rants, and community sing-alongs. Almost all showered you with a forest load of reading material to compliment the non-climate friendly air conditioning. Networking was clearly the primary aim for most people’s game, but it was also useful to gain a wider perspective on what is certainly a multifaceted mess. Continue reading