The Cancun climate change conference kicks off today and we have a variety of people blogging from there, including Phillip Ireland from Adopt-a-negotiator and Ellen Sandell from the Youth Climate Coalition. But first up, check out this article extract from Giles Parkison over at Climate Spectator, who’ll be blogging the event from the swim-up bars at the Moon Palace resort.
Giles Parkinson writes: Cancun is no place for a “coolist”. After the frigid environs of Poland and Denmark for the two previous Conference of the Parties hosted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 16 is being held in the steamy heat of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
But Cancun will be no place to sign a treaty either. After the frustration of Copenhagen, and the level of mistrust that still runs deep amongst the key players, thoughts of a binding international treaty have been put aside until South Africa in 2011, or Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Even that seems optimistic.
A survey completed by the Washington-based Centre for American Progress points to the issue that hangs heavy over the these talks: Will the US ever be able to come to the party? And if it doesn’t, then who will be prepared to commit?
The CDP survey finds that, of the 100 newly-elected US Republican Senators and Representatives, not a single one has publicly accepted the scientific consensus on climate change. Eighty of them signed a “no climate tax” pledge organised by Koch Industries, the oil and manufacturing giant that is now the biggest contributor to so-called sceptics groups, and more than three quarters of the sitting Republicans publicly question the science.
This makes it hard to imagine that the US could ever deliver the 67 votes necessary to ratify an international treaty on climate change. And as Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says, that will get even harder after 2012, when twice as many Democrats face elections than Republicans.
This creates a problem. As Damian Ryan of the Climate Group pointed out last week, developing countries want a clear signal out of Cancun that the Kyoto Protocol will continue into a second commitment beyond 2012, and the parallel convention that many hope will be adopted alongside it will be a legally binding agreement and will include the US. Without the US being able to engage and commit, other major emitters such as Canada, Russia and Japan will not sign up for a second commitment period of Kyoto, and others won’t move either.
“It’s a vicious circle, and it’s unclear how it will be resolved,” says Ryan. The main task of Cancun may be to try and keep the Kyoto Protocol alive enough to keep developing countries happy, and dead enough for the developed ones. “Essentially it means keeping it on life support,” he says.
Hope, however, does spring eternal. The focus for Cancun will be on trying to gain agreement on a series of key stepping stones that might one day be part of a broader deal — finance, verifaction, adaptation, technology transfer, forests, and what to do about the pledges made as part of the Copenhagen Accord, the deal struck at the previous conference of parties (COP) which remains “noted” but not “agreed” by the international community.
Read the rest of this article (this is only the first third!) over at Climate Spectator.