Cancún Eyewitness #2: Pessimism and Klimaforum

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There is a widespread lack of confidence that Cancún will produce any agreement at all

by Javier Sethness

The second day of the sixteenth Conference of Parties (COP-16) summit in Cancún follows much the same as the first, a day that saw Mexican President Felipe Calderón assert in remarks before the delegates assembled in Moon Palace—a highly exclusive hotel, center of the COP-16 talks—that the potential failure of the Cancún talks, their failure to look beyond dominant individual and national interests—would be a “tragedy,” and that climate-negotiators should act during the summit’s two weeks with the interests of humanity in mind. He stressed in particular the concern that should be evinced in Cancún for existing children and future generations.

In his address to delegates on the same day, Mario Molina, Mexican scientist awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, declared it to be “necessary and urgent” that COP-16 produce a climate agreement—this, amidst a widespread lack of confidence among country-governments and commentators that Cancún will produce any agreement at all.

As was the case on Monday, COP-16’s second day saw dozens of members of international organization “Ching Hai SOS,” a branch of the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association, protesting outside the Cancunmesse, a conference center that has been set aside as one of COP-16’s halls of negotiation. The SOS protestors, present outside the Cancumesse throughout the day since the early morning, advocate the general adoption of an organic-vegan diet, claiming such a move to be essential to “save the planet.” They also rather bizarrely maintain such diets to produce good karma, and are likely mistaken in arguing for such a singular solution to the specter of climate catastrophe—the stress on diet seems to overlook the rather pressing issue of capitalism, for example.

In an attempt to spread its message, the SOS has bought advertising space on billboards and taxi in parts of Cancún; this marketing-strategy has also taken up by Greenpeace, which has purchased advertisements on buses in addition to billboards in the city that remind observers of the recent disastrous experience with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a reason to abolish the use of petroleum, beyond petroleum’s inescapable contributions to dangerous anthropogenic interference with the Earth’s climate systems.

It seems that no protests other than that carried out by the SOS were held in Cancún today.

I visited Klimaforum10’s campus today. Klimaforum10, the successor of last year’s Klimaforum09 held during COP-15 in Copenhagen, is being held at the El Rey Polo Country Club, itself located a number of kilometers from Puerto Morales, a city some 40 kilometers south of Cancún. Klimaforum10 is made up of a number of tents in which workshops, discussions, and film-screenings are had.

A number of the events planned to take place at Klimaforum10—a discussion on climate and human conflict; a presentation on the status and possible fate of the ‘Third Pole,’ or the glaciers to be found in the Tibetan highlands; remarks by Polly Higgins, advocate of the introduction of the crime of ecocide into international law; a speech on the impacts on indigenous peoples of glacier-retreat in the Andes; a workshop on the importance of the place of commons in place of statist and private-property regimes; popular reflections on the question of science and responsibility; a panel on the rights of climate-migrants—seem rather compelling, but the location and the lifestylism ethos that seems to prevail proved rather disconcerting.

The six Via Campesina caravans that are currently touring various sites in Mexico to highlight the very real damage climate change has to date had on the country—evident above all in the unprecedented rains and floods suffered this year in the country’s south—are expected to arrive in Cancún on either 2 or 3 December, so as to be present for the beginning of the Meeting “For Life and Environmental and Social Justice” on 4 December.

In addition to the mass-protest planned for 7 December, Via Campesina is also organizing a march “For Life and Climate Justice” for 5 December.

The Espacio Mexicano-Diálogo Climático (Mexican Space for Climate Dialogue, or EsMex), another counter-summit to the COP-16, is currently setting-up its installations in downtown Cancún; the space is to be provided solar energy from a Greenpeace truck, the “Sunflower.”

Today it was revealed that neither Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva nor British Prime Minister David Cameron plan to attend the COP-16 talks at all. In contrast, and in accordance with government-representative José Crespo Fernández, Bolivian President Evo Morales is slated to arrive in Cancún on 9 December, when he is expected to present a speech to international civil society. Though the U.S. plans to send Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to the talks, it still remains unclear whether U.S. president Barack Obama will deign COP-16 with his presence.

The wind power-generator inaugurated by Calderón on the eve of the summit’s opening, located in an air corridor between Cancún and the Cancunmesse, has been denounced in recent days as having  failed to meet governmental environmental standards during its construction. Its fate is unclear, but the installation—purportedly erected to provide electricity for COP-16—may well have to be removed following the  conference, in accordance with existing regulations.

With regard to the state of repressive statist forces in Cancún, the Mexican police and military continue in full force, deployed at several sites in the city and its environs and continuing their patrols. It seems that the federal government has rented from Israel an unmanned aerial vehicle for use in Cancún; it is claimed that the drone will be employed for the monitoring of traffic both vehicular and human in the area.

Javier Sethness is a libertarian socialist and rights-advocate. He maintains the blog Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism.