Cancun: What will our climate legacy be?

Kiribati President: “Whoever thinks they are more vulnerable than we are, they can swap countries.”

It’s crunch time in Cancun, and with one day left — and a possible extension into Saturday in emergency session — delegates are scrambling for some closure.  CAP’s Susan Lyon has the story.

Thursday’s plenary, hosted by President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, convened heads of state and negotiators to address the fateful question: in “the struggle against climate change, what should our legacy be?'”  Entitled ‘Keeping high our long-term ambitions against climate change,’ this was the second COP 16 dialogue session with heads of state and government.

The panel provided many examples of the progress we can and need to make even in the absence of an all-encompassing climate treaty, as well as a grave reminder that for many nations – Kiribati, Tuvulu, and Samoa, and many others — this is truly a matter of life and death.  Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, kicked off the head of state dialogue by urging progress over perfection.  Even in the presence of high political barriers to an international agreement, he argued, “let’s make progress where and when we can.”

Progress now can especially be made, delegates urged, in the following ways:

  • Expanding energy efficiency tools and renewables around the world
  • Strengthening and defining the adaptation agenda
  • Pursuing REDD+ (“It will be a travesty if it doesn’t move forward,” Zoellick remarked)
  • Using pilot projects and then diffusing successful technologies much faster
  • Building in feedback and monitoring systems (e.g. to gain accurate measurements in avoiding deforestation)

As always, speakers urged that a carbon pricing signal is one of the most essential things that can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change, to bring markets and the private sector into the game.  But “given the multidimensional nature of this challenge, it’s absolutely critical that governments integrate the work of various ministries.”  To this end, heads of state urged mainstreaming climate considerations into policy-making at all levels: in risk insurance; in flood zone planning and mapping; in coastal development projects and so on.

The theme of the session, and increasingly of COP 16 as a whole, seemed to be, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Small island nations immediately pointed out that, in their case, the ‘good’ is very simple: their survival.  Samoa in particular urged “country owned and country led” sustainable development and the replenishing of funds for climate aid, while President Anote Tong of Kiribati, low-lying home to 100,000 [see image above] gravely expressed it as a matter of survival, saying it is likely already too late for his soon-to-be-submerged nation:

Whoever thinks they are more vulnerable than we are, they can swap countries.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon also spoke urgently to the need for action now with an elaborate plane crash analogy, as detailed by the Wonk Room here:  “Whether the guilt lies with those in the tourist class or those sitting up front in first class, the plane continues to go down.”  We are wasting time “squabbling” that we should be spending on deploying new clean energy initiatives.

However grim, this dialogue truly mirrors the negotiating shift CAP has already observed in Cancun at this year’s COP 16. The CAP column ‘Bottom Up in Cancun‘ argues that a shift from top-down to bottom-up climate measures that’s occurring at this week’s climate conference wont’ necessarily derail the chance for a binding international treaty and in the end could advance the same agenda we would see from such a treaty.    The “balanced package” of single decisions that the negotiators are working on finalizing today could “break the climate logjam” through its emerging focus on clean energy deployment, local level action, and climate finance.

The full agenda for COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico can be found here (pdf).

Susan Lyon of CAP’s Energy Opportunity team.

10 Responses to Cancun: What will our climate legacy be?

  1. REDD could be a corporate land grab that disempowers indigenous people.

    The devil is in the details.

    There’s a long history of apparently well intentioned deals being used as a vehicle for stealing communal land from indigenous people. The details that haven’t yet been worked out will determine whether REDD is good or bad for indigenous people and the environement.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    Maybe they will adapt, with building huge ocean bases. Like seen in “Age of Stupid” docu.

  3. Gianni London says:

    Looks like the even is a failure for the globalists

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    “Be realistic.”

    “Be reasonable.”

    Hhhhmmmm. Sorry to say this, but these sorts of statements are very, very problematic. Why? Because they contain wisdom to some degree along with un-wisdom to some degree: it depends on the situation, matters of degree, and so forth.

    That said, USUALLY, these days anyhow, these sorts of statements are actually used to defend an acquiescence to policies that are far, far insufficient to even be called “the good”. In other words, they are usually used to defend bad aspects of the status quo, or they are used to defend an acceptance of mere band aids (and often superficial ones at that) being place over the continuing causal factors of the main problem.

    Someone might say, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. Often, the appropriate response will be, “don’t let your perception of ‘the good’ cloud your ability to judge that, by allowing the continuance of the main problem, and by us accepting it, its net result will be more bad than good.” Put another way, “don’t let what you’d like to call ‘the good’ be the enemy of the essential and necessary!”.

    We can choose to accommodate ourselves and adapt ourselves, complacently, to slow and incremental things that we perceive as “the good” — year after year after year, all the way to what Joe calls Hell and High Water. If that is what the movement’s organizations are going to be content with (after all, that will keep them in business), COUNT ME OUT.

    In the face of the climate change problem, and the present situation, to argue that we should be content to accept the (so-called) “good”, when we have barely even lifted a finger to bring about major demonstrations, boycotts, and so forth in order to do our genuine best to bring about “the much better!”, is not wise, at all. It puts off the problem, and it puts off self-understanding, and it puts off the eventual choice we’ll need to make. As time passes, I would argue, the movement’s organizations themselves are putting off the real and eventual choice. In the hopes that more e-mails will work, or more once-a-year day-long events, the movement’s organizations are (sorry to say) fooling themselves and putting off the difficult questions. If that isn’t clear enough to them, at this late date, we need new organizations or new leaders, or both. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate their past and present efforts. But it IS to say that, unless they wake up and realize that different (additional) approaches will also be necessary — and MUCH more effectiveness — we’ll need to change horses.

    Sorry. The present post (by Susan) is really very good, and I appreciate it, but every time I see a “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” sort of statement, regarding the climate change problem, I can’t help but speak out. We are nowhere near “the perfect”, and nobody has been asking for what would actually be anywhere near “the perfect”, as far as I can tell. Our problem is not that we expect “the perfect”. Instead, our problem is that we are too often — WAY TOO OFTEN — satisfied to accept “the barely nothing” and call it “the good”, so we can smile I guess, even though the net effect of actually doing so is to let “the bad” continue to flourish for two more years, largely unabated. That’s the larger problem. The sooner we see this, the better.



  5. Solar Jim says:

    Mining companies (fossil and fissile materials) and investment banks (oxymoron) that finance them are keeping hundreds of billions of dollars of annual corporate subsidies OFF the agenda. These are the primary financial accelerators of perverse investment and climate cataclysm. With global corruption rampant, these investors now essentially own national governments and set the, i.e. their, agenda. Reserves of “fuel” equal reserves of perceived value as long as citizens remain addicted to governance by wealthy mining interests (plutocracy). Some “climate negotiators” have been or are associated with these same financial interests, including those of the US and UK delegations, not to mention their associated petro-dictatorships.

  6. dbmetzger says:

    Leaders Ponder Kyoto Protocol at Cancun Summit
    World leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference are trying to hammer out a new deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countries are wondering whether to follow the precedents set by previous climate summits in Kyoto or Copenhagen.

  7. Michael T. says:

    Panama flooding kills 10, displaces thousands

    PANAMA CITY – Heavy rains and flooding in Panama have killed 10 people and forced more than 4,700 from their homes. Panama’s Civil Protection System says more than 450 homes have been destroyed this week.

  8. anders says:

    Better to be hit first, then “rich” countries will still be accepting refugees, when the real flood starts the door will be closed….. so small islands citizens will probably get better treatment than when 20 million bangladeshi refugees leaving 10 years later try to get a toe in the door….

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Worse to come as Australia flood toll rises

    The floods, which have also affected Victoria to the south and the northeastern state of Queensland are estimated

    Flood warning as Scotland thaws