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Heather Allen’s Blog

Early Morning Wake-up Call for Ministers from the Mexican Presidency at COP 16 Climate Talks

Heather Allen

Posted December 8, 2010

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This morning I fought the desire to hit snooze because I needed to rush to catch not one but two buses to make it to this morning’s meeting at the COP-16 Climate Talks in Cancun.  And apparently everyone else woke-up early too – the building was bustling when I arrived.  It’s quite rare that things get going early at any UN meeting and certainly not a COP where most official events start at 10am and beyond.  So there was a great deal of excitement in the air as we squeezed into the packed room around 8:00 am.  

New texts (available here and here) had been issued moments before the meeting.  The documents covered the range of topics under negotiation and countries were eager to hear each other’s positions on the new papers.  It was very surprising then when Patricia Espinosa the President of the COP, only allowed the working group chairs to make brief remarks.  They introduced the papers and explained the remaining decisions must be made by political leaders (Ministers).  And then she promptly closed the meeting allowing no countries to speak.


The people sitting next to me looked over with bleary eyes; sleepy and surprised.  We had expected hours of statements from almost every country (and group of countries).  Instead what happened may have been a highly effective approach to sometimes unwieldy negotiations.  It might have been genius.

Espinosa knows that there are only 48 hours left to get Ministers to come to an agreed outcome here in Cancun.   She needed to get everyone to focus on the new text and to avoid repeating their own long-standing national positions.  By gathering everyone together first thing, sharing the new text and then explaining that the majority of the remaining major decisions are political - she made it clear that the Ministers must buckle down and negotiate in the spirit of compromise to reach a balanced package by the end of the meeting on Friday night. 

There is no more time for delay.  The damages resulting from climate change continue to mount and the costs of adaptation continue to rise.  As my colleague Jake Schmidt documented here countries have to decide if they can accept what is on the table. 

This is a decision about whether countries want to “lock in” the emissions reduction commitments that countries made before and after Copenhagen and take tangible actions to improve the transparency of the actions all countries take to reduce their pollution.

Its clear the Mexican Presidency is absolutely committed to reaching a positive outcome here in Cancun and is working around the clock in an open and transparent fashion to foster dialogue and resolve the remaining issues.  Now is the time for the negotiators to finalize agreements in the key areas so that we can begin to see real action to reduce global warming emissions and to help countries lessen the impacts of climate change. 

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