Now try imagining 193 COUNTRY representatives getting together and agreeing on anything! Never mind that they had to first get agreement on a “national” position that they would then need to stick to, or that they might be influenced by “on the ground” NGO (non-governmental organization) or civil society groups that follow them from meeting to meeting. Chances are they are also part of a bloc of countries that will need to reach a joint agreement and establish a “bloc” negotiating position. The fact that ANYTHING ever gets decided, and that decisions and resolutions can be more complex or involved than the lowest common denominator of the discussions “bubbling out” from UN conference rooms, is truly amazing.
After spending 13 years following international negotiations at UN meetings around the world, let me tell you, you can get “jaded. ” Particularly when you see a country “caving” on an important point, because of the need to stick to “agreed language.” I have watched country delegates agonizing until the “wee hours of the next day” as they “hash it out” over changing one word in a text, something as seemingly inconsequential as changing the word “THE” to the word “A.” (No fooling, this really does happen and it seems to have important implications for some countries!)
International negotiations are hard work at the best of times, let alone if you are trying to put in place something “binding” that countries have to commit to. Prior to the Kyoto Protocol and the recent UN climate change negotiations there never have been “binding” UN negotiations or resolutions. Countries often agree to broad agendas, or adopt a resolution, but these never, in the past, have held countries accountable.
So, given the above background info, the Cancun Climate talks that ended this past weekend can definitely be called a “moderate” success. Some of the takeaways from the meeting include:
New reporting requirements for both developed and developing countries, which require reports every 2 years on progress to meet emissions reductions, including a system of “international consultations and analysis” to verify that countries are doing what they say they are.
The creation of a ‘Green Climate Fund’ to mobilize investments in developing countries as a means of helping them adapt to climate change and reduce their carbon emissions.
The establishment of the Cancun Adaptation Framework which is charged with enhancing climate change adaptation and mitigation by all countries.
Strengthened efforts by developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and other forestry related activities, with the help of developed countries, of course!
The establishment of a technology mechanism to assess the technological needs and recommend actions for technology development and transfer to developing countries.
Unfortunately, given the nature of international negotiations, we need to keep our expectations low and the agreements reached above are most certainly “couched in diplomatic speak” to allow for the broadest interpretation by home governments.
This “snail pace” seems at odds with the speed at which our planet is changing and the needs that have to be met, in the very near term, to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Our planet can’t wait for international bodies to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate…nor can or will our planet wait for the world community to continue to eek out these small successes every year, when what we need are HUGE actions NOW!
So, what YOU need to do, and what YOU can do, is continue to PUSH at thelocal level, PUSH at the regional level and PUSH at the national level. DO SOMETHING yourself, with your family, in your community to fight against climate change. We all need to take action. What do you think? Ask your kids what they would do if they were negotiating for their country? What are you doing in your house, town, community to make a difference…here at ClimateMama, ALL ideas are on the table, let us know what you are doing to help in the fight to slow down climate change, remember each of us CAN make a difference!