Cancun news update: High stakes, glimmers of hope

Climate Power Couples Take Charge

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has asked five pairs of rich and poor nations to tackle the questions necessary for a positive result at the Cancun talks. Brad Johnson has the story of these Bennifers and Brangelinas of the climate negotiations, who will hold the key to the incremental success hoped for here:

Britzil: Britain and Brazil have the greatest responsibility, assigned to break the deadlock over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Bangralia: Australia and Bangladesh are developing draft text for international financing and technology transfer.

Spalgeria: Spain and Algeria are working together on adaptation assistance for developing countries.

Grenaden: Sweden and Grenada will “work on long-term global goals for slowing climate change.”

New Zindonesia: New Zealand and Indonesia are working on “other issues about curbing greenhouse gases,” according to Reuters.

Diminished, Dangerous World Drives Urgency

The dangerous interference with the climate system that is already taking place is driving urgency among most nations at the conference. “Even when we’re underwater, when the bubbles pop, you’ll hear us yelling,” Seychelles delegate Ronny Jumeau tells the Los Angeles Times. The devastating flooding in Colombia has forced Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, to cancel his scheduled trip to the talks “” even though global warming itself is what is affecting his nation. And a new report from Dara projects that there will be a million climate deaths a year by 2030. Nearly all of the deaths will take place in least developed nations, and nearly of them are preventable if a sufficient international adaptation effort is funded.

Japan Leads Obstructionist Bloc With Russia And Canada

The future of the Kyoto Protocol, which puts all emission reduction obligations on developed nations but expires in 2012, is not resolvable at the Cancun talks. Recognizing that, the United States, China, the European Union, and nearly all of the least developed nations have indicated their willingness to continue negotiations but let final decisions come next year. However, at the beginning of this conference, Japan took a hard-line position against continuing the Kyoto Protocol in any fashion, and the governments of Canada and Russia have joined them. This poison-pill strategy threatens to overshadow the pragmatic approach taken by nearly all the other delegations for these talks.

– Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson is reporting and tweeting live from the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.