Monday, October 11, 2010

Can anything good come out of Cancun?

COP 15 was a failure. Can something good come out of the COP16? meeting in Cancun in November? In Copeenhagen too much time was spent on blaming other governments, and the to the watered out Copenhagen accord
was lined by power politics and hypocrisy. Will governments be more willing to face their own responsibility this time? To be frank, I don't think the chances of a fair, binding and ambitious agreement are very big. But maybe we can hope for a dialogue that is both fair and ambitious.

If there is something that the year since COP15 has showed, it is that the momentum for the climate movement is not waning. At least not in the world outside politics. Yesterday, on the 10 October 2010, thousands of citizens gathered at 7347 different work parties coordinated by all over the world. It can be about fixing bikes, planting trees or anyhing that makes our planet live longer. This will send a clear signal to decision makers -  citizens ARE worried about climate change, and swe want to see ambitious policies witht the double aim to ease effects of , and adjusting society climate change.

When politicians and negotiators meet in Cancun, diplomatic realities will probably limit their freedom to act, as always happen on high level UN meetings. Meanwhile, interesting things are happening all the time in the everyday polticial work, on all political levels. One example is the Danish commission on climate change policy whose recently published proposals chocked Swedish media, where talk about a country  not dependent on fossil fuel is still regarded as irresponsible green utopias. Another is the Local Renewables conference in Freiburg later this week, where local governements from all over Europe and the rest of the world will meet to discuss the role of renewables in local transports. Sexy? Maybe. Interesting? Definitely. Local governments are running the very bus and train systems that we need to find a sustainable life style. Forgive me my Eurocentrism, I am sure that examples like these can be dound in most countries on all continents.

And let's not forget private enterprise. The tidal wave of green and climate friendly slogans on our billboards is impressive, almost annoying. It seems impossible to sell something these days without claiming that it is climate friendly. A lot of this is mere greenwashing, of course, but it nonetheless indicates how important these questions are for consumers. And it seems like those companies who really take environmental issues seriously find their way to consumers more and more easily.

Things are happening, and they are picking up speed. In the middle of this process the Cancun meeting takes place. It can surprise or dissapoint, but most probably it will not change much on the ground. Does that make it meningless? After all, lots of money is spent on meetings like these, money that could maybe be put at better use somewhere else?

No. meaningless it is not. As true as it is that the real difference is the coiches you and I make every day, it is also true that politics is part of this process. What governments need to do in Cancun is to think larger than national interests. Environmental challenges are all about local solutions to global problems. But local solutions must be encouraged by a sense of  globally shared responisbility.

Many fora are international, but the only one that can claim to be truy global is the UN. Which is why we still needs meetings like the COPs. Fora like the G20 can be more efficient, but they can never fill this function. We can get very angry about the fact that the Danish governement tried to sidestep the world's poor countries in Copenhagen, but at the same time, this is maybe the only context where European governements are actually forced to respond to opinions from poor countries.

Of course, we should hope for the outcome in Cancun to be as positive as possible. We should work for a binding, ambitious and fair climate agreement, something that pushes governements to work with, and not against their citizens. But the main achievement of the UN's work will not be the agreement, but the process of getting there. Let's accept nothing but a fair and ambitious dialogue in Cancun.

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