Friends: I'm at the COP16 Conference in Cancun, aiming to talk about climate bonds as a mechanism to divert private investment to building a low-carbon economy. Here are six snippets from my first 24 hours:
1. Cancun's surrounds have that beautiful blue you get in tropical waters, and endless green forest. It also has, as you drive out of the airport, machine gun-armed soldiers lining the street and manning roadblocks on the freeway. A bit chilling; a shadow of the conflicts to come if we get catastrophic climate change. Attending the Conference requires endless bus shuttling between a (well-organised) set of big sheds out in the bush and huge hotel complexes dotted along the coast; the government negotiators are holed up in a vast resort called Moon Palace. Crowds are much smaller than at Copenhagen - lower expectations this time.
2. First big announcement: Japan refuses to extend Kyoto Protocol. Full stop. Kills stone dead the push by G77 countries, including China, to extend the current agreement for another “commitment” period of developed countries paying the developing. Japan says the only agreement it will sign is one that includes binding reductions by China and India, among others. The move apparently came out of the blue for other delegations. China and Brazil are not happy.
3. Then the World Meteorological Society announces that 2010 was, so far, one of the three warmest on record – and the current cold snap in Europe doesn't change that (part of the increased weather volatility climate change brings). BTW, the three warmest years on record have all occurred since 1996.
4. China this week got a €500 mil loan from the European Investment Bank to invest in renewable energy. Good stuff - but such a pity the Bank also just lent €550 mil for coal-fired power in Slovenia. How do we get the right hand working in concert with the left hand?
5. The head of the UN climate talks body apparently fought back tears in a meeting with youth activists on Wednesday. After talking about the lack of ambition among global leaders for an agreement among economic and political constraints, she was asked what keeps her going. She choked up as she answered “the next generation”.
6. Meanwhile the negotiators labour their way through the various texts of draft agreements, with interminably polite arguments about [bracketed] text - the sections they haven't yet agreed on. For example there was a lot of to and froing today as G77 countries pushed to have the word "increase" taken out of brackets in a clause about funding "capacity-building". In another EU seminar on climate finance a speaker was explaining that developed world debt would be up 120% this year, while developing world debt would go down 40%. It may be seen as unjust by the G77, but there seems little chance of having that work "increase" taken out fo brackets.
7. The Koreans on the other hand are staying optimistic. Last year they spent more of their economic stimulus budget on green investments than anyone else. At a Korean Global Green Growth Institute seminar today their former Prime Minister explains how they're working with a number of developing countries on investing to create a low-carbon economy that delivers greater prosperity. Nick Stern chaired the session, touting Korea as the case example of how to do it right. Perhaps they can advise recalcitrant countries like Australia and Canada as well?
This is the first of an occasional update during COP16.
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