"Cancun Could Have..." Taking Stock of the Climate Negotiations.

Yesterday was the last day of the climate negotiations, or at least it was supposed to be.  Countries have pulled all nighters for the past several days to try to come to some agreement on key issues.  Actually, it’s more a matter of agreeing to a process through which they might later agree than anything, but in this convoluted process, that can mean real progress.

Still, the delegates and observers to the talks appeared weary and a bit at a loss, like tired football fans just hoping a Hail Mary will lead to overtime and keeps their hopes alive. Maria Espinosa, Mexico Minister of Environment and President of the Convention of the Parties, left the meeting center in a rush (in a hybrid BMW X6) yesterday morning, causing one young observer to rush into the circle drive, throw her hand up, and yell “Where are you going?”

Once assured the Mexican Presidency was not abandoning the negotiations – they had just been delayed while informal meetings and contact groups wrapped up – the delegates and observers gathered in the plenary room awaiting the beginning of the “Informal Meeting of the President”, then 2 hours overdue, to “take stock” of the meeting.

For naught.  A representative for the Mexican Presidency announced at noon that the meeting would take place “this afternoon.” Such is the way of climate negotiations, though at least here in Mexico, there’s at least a chance that observers will be allowed to participate.  On the last day of the Copenhagen talks a year ago, President Obama and other heads of state negotiated a last minute accord behind closed doors, and observers sat outside or headed across the Skagerrak to Sweden for several rounds of glögg.

I joined some of my new friends and fellow climate warriors and returned to our hotel where we all sat on the beach awaiting word that something was coming so we could dust off and rush back to the meeting.  5 p.m. and nothing.  Seven p.m. and still nothing, so we took our blackberries and laptops to the restaurant.  Still nothing, so a margarita or two seemed entirely appropriate.  We returned to our hotel, packed up, checked out early, and waited for word.  Pues y Nada.

Fast forward a night and half day, and I sat in the airport with no internet access and no news, at least none in English that I found.  I know something happened while I slept, some agreement was reached, I assume called “The Cancun _____ (Accord? Process? Road Map? Directive? Can-of-Worms?) that will allow the negotiations to continue.  “Agreement” it turns out, I just heard.  Was it enough to lay the groundwork for a legally binding agreement in Durbin, South Africa next year?

Folks yelling “Cancun CAN!” at the beginning of the meeting now seem to be saying “Cancun could have, but we’ll see…”  I’m home now, and I’ll look into it and post some analysis tomorrow, but for now it’s clear that the earth will continue to boil for the foreseeable future, no matter what the “agreement” from Cancun, Mexico looks like.

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