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Spirit of Working Together Rules the Day in Cancun Global Warming Negotiations: Let's Hope it Continues

Jake Schmidt

Posted December 13, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

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The international climate agreement reached in Cancun, Mexico established a foundation from which to build greater international action on global warming.  But a key sub-story is also the spirit that countries brought to Cancun.  Countries came to Cancun, with a desire to work together and find common ground on the greatest challenge that faces humanity – addressing global warming.  We’ll need that spirit to continue as we have a lot of work ahead. 

Countries pushed, nudged, and cajoled each other to move towards an agreement that matched their vision of success – in essence they negotiated.  But in the final hours they also didn’t let this negotiation dynamic stop them from seeing the opportunity to move forward that was reflected in the Cancun Agreements.

Even in the final hours it wasn’t clear that such a spirit would materialize in the final moments.  I asked one key negotiator that I saw in the halls around noon on Friday whether he thought there would be an agreement and he gave it a slim chance.  But what emerged just hours later was a resounding applause, many standing ovations, and resounding words of support from the big emitters, the most vulnerable, middle income countries, the developed and developing world, and from all the different regions of the world. 

It began with a standing ovation as the Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa opened the session and followed with supportive statements from countries around the world.  Here is a snapshot of what some of them said* (the whole plenary sessions are available and are well worth watching, see here and here and here).**

Peru on behalf of Columbia, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Panama, and the Dominican Republic (15:45):  We firmly believe that we should accept this document…In this way we also respond to the demands of global society and of future generations…   

South Korea (24:00): Thank you for your great leadership and well balanced text…Since the Copenhagen meeting last December, the international community has long awaited this today’s text…I truly believe today we have risen to the challenge of climate change.

Grenada (28:35): Our delegation welcomes the text that is before us and though it is not a perfect document we remind ourselves of the words of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “the perfect should not be the enemy of the good”. 

Australia (38:37):  …I would like to clearly indicate the support of the Australian delegation for the package that has been put before the conference.

Lesotho on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (42:25): The LDCs [least developed countries] are on the whole pleased with the package.  We believe that this is a good foundation for our work… 

Maldives (57:35):  I think what you have delivered here to us in the form of text is a very a balanced package.  And I think that everything that we require is there in one form or another…If you really hear the applause in the audience I think you can feel the mood [applause]…I think that speaks for itself!

European Union (1:03:30):  The European Union came to Cancun in the hope to have a balanced package.  A package showing progress on substance, as well as paving the way forward in this process.  This has been achieved here in Cancun.

Bangladesh (1:08:33):  In a multilateral process it is difficult if there is no flexibility to have an outcome.  There is good outcome in the field of adaptation…And there is an outcome to establish a Climate Green Fund—this is a good outcome in this text…We fully support moving forward and associate ourselves with this outcome.  This is not the question of development for the people of Bangladesh this is a question of survival for the people of Bangladesh.  I request that you go forward.

US (1:14:48):  I think this text does provide the necessary balance...and points the way forward.  So let us now to do what it takes…get this deal done and put the world on a more hopeful path towards a low emissions and sustainable future.

United Arab Emirates (1:16:45):  We believe that we run a great risk here tonight.  If we allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, we risk undermining what we see as substantive and balanced progress on many important issues that are critical to all of us…We wholeheartedly join in the chorus for its adoption.

Senegal (1:19:10):  This document is a good step forward for the next stage…We support it.

Philippines (1:20:25):  We look forward to using this draft text as a stepping stone towards further progress for the benefit of not only of this generation but also for those yet unborn.

Kenya (1:22:30):   My delegation feels the text on adaptation, which is crucial for the most vulnerable countries like ours, reflects many of the issues put forward by developing nations…My delegation would like to accept the text as presented and plead with all to allow Cancun to send a message of hope to the world.

Costa Rica (1:25:35):  We firmly believe that we are very close to getting a result to strengthen the basis of this global agreement on which our very survival depends.

China (1:27:45):  At the beginning of the meeting, Parties have demonstrated good political will for bringing the meeting to a success….we expect that next year on the road to the South African conference we can give further play to this cooperative spirit in this Cancun conference. 

India (1:44:57):  What you have accomplished today gives us the confidence to look ahead and approach the challenge of climate change in its multiple dimensions in a spirit of constructive compromise…We will engage ourselves in the same spirit of give and take that has animated Cancun…Let us very soon bring a halt to this process and say that we do have an agreement in Cancun.

Columbia (1:50:28): We find ourselves with an unthinkable sight.  We never believed that we could have achieved such a positive and constructive collective sentiment…We ask that the Cancun package be adopted without further ado.

Indonesia (1:58:25):  It is our fervent view that there is an urgency to move forward if we are to succeed in addressing the profound challenges of climate change that threatens the continuity of humankind.

Chile (2:01:50):  The package proposed without any doubt is a major step forward in the right direction.

Brazil (2:04:48): We have to recognize that considerable progress has been made in Cancun…Brazil fully supports the document.  Let’s adopt it.

We must build upon that spirit for the effort that lies ahead.  The spirit reflected in the mood in the final hours of the negotiations in Cancun was essential since after Copenhagen there were serious questions (including in my mind) about whether countries could rebuild trust, find common ground, and come to an agreement.  In Cancun countries didn’t agree grudgingly as some did in Copenhagen.  They looked at the package in front of them and saw an opportunity to establish a platform to build stronger action.  It was truly remarkable. 

Let’s not forget that spirit as we are just at the beginning of a long march together that will require us all to work for the betterment of all humanity.

So let’s savor it for a moment.  And let’s take that spirit into Durban, South Africa and beyond.

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* These are excerpts from the statements by select countries.

**This was after Bolivia stood alone in opposing the agreement and trying to block consensus.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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