Bid to wreck Cancun meets resistance

December 4, 2010
La Via Campesina activists.

The United Nations global climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, looks set to repeat the failures of Copenhagen. The chances of Cancun producing a binding agreement that would avert climate disaster are next to zero.

Many world leaders have not even bothered to attend the summit, which runs from November 29 to December 10.

Leaders of rich nations and the media talked much about the “low expectations” of an agreement in the lead-up to the conference.

Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, said in the November 30 Guardian: “The reality is that the talk of 'low expectations' is a ploy by a small group of industrialised countries to obscure their obligations to act.

“They are playing politics with the planet's future. If the Cancun talks set sail with no wind, then no-one will be angered when they stall.”

Rich nations have made Cancun begin where Copenhagen left off, using the same undemocratic practices to stop any push for meaningful action.

On November 24, the chairperson of the working group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) released a document that ignored recent negotiations in an attempt to revive the discredited “Copenhagen Accord”. The US-backed accord, which sets weak, non-binding emissions cuts targets, was not endorsed by nations in Copenhagen.

Nnimmo Bassey, an observer for Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) at Cancun, said on the FoEI blog on November 30: “The document produced by the chair of the LCA appears to be something quite at variance with what many delegates expected would be the outcome of the negotiations and work done since Copenhagen.

“The document that delegates are to debate is allegedly based on the 'Copenhagen Accord’, which some delegates insist was not an agreement at the end of COP15, but was merely 'taken note of' by that conference.”

The Bolivian government denounced the document on November 27. The document proposes a temperature rise target of 2°C, which would likely spell disaster for large areas of the world. It also ignores the idea of climate justice, by not taking into account the historic damage to ecosystems caused by rich nations.

Its primary proposals for reducing carbon emissions are new market mechanisms such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). A report released by FoEI on November 29 criticised REDD for placing the world's forests under the control of “bankers and carbon traders”.

The FoEI report said that REDD “has the potential to exacerbate inequality, reaping huge rewards for corporate investors whilst bringing considerably fewer benefits or even serious disadvantages to forest dependent communities”.

The document also ignored all proposals from the World Conference of the People on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April. The Cochabamba conference was attended by 35,000 people and produced a Peoples' Accord based on principles of climate justice and solidarity.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said that they faced “the end of history” if rich countries kept their 2°C target, the Guardian said on December 1. The 43 nations that make up AOSIS have called for a maximum warming of 1.5°C.

Science adviser to AOSIS, Albert Binger, told the Guardian: “We cannot compromise. But now the rich countries want us to be collateral damage.”

Like Copenhagen, the voices of the world's people have been sidelined in favour of the elite.

Two alternative peoples' summits are taking place. Following Copenhagen's Klimaforum09 which hosted 50,000 people, Klimaforum10 is taking place near Puerto Morales, about 50 kilometres from Cancun.

International peasant organisation La Via Campesina's camp “For Life and environmental and social Justice” began on December 4 after six convoys of activists met in Cancun.

The convoys transported members of La Via Campesina to Cancun from different parts of Mexico, visiting sites already affected by climate change and picking up activists along the way. said on November 30: “Along the way, caravans have met with the electric workers’ union [and] the teachers’ union in many towns including the Malinche neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City, where more than 500 local activists welcomed the caravan with a rally for climate and citizen rights.

“In Morelia ... activists formed a massive spontaneous march, quickly filling Morelia’s main streets with slogans like 'Zapata vive, la lucha sigue' and 'Water and energy cannot be sold'.”

A large rally is planned for December 7 outside the conference venue, located in an isolated area of the city. La Via Campesina has called for “a thousand Cancuns” to be created on December 7 in an international day of climate action, said.

Security around Cancun is extreme. An estimated 6000 police and military were mobilised, ecosocialist Javier Sethness reported from Cancun on his blog on November 29.

Police set up many checkpoints inside the city and on surrounding highways to intimidate the protesters. Sethness said: “Hummers that have soldiers manning machine-gun mounts in locations in which large numbers of people congregate”, have been stationed throughout the city.

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