Archive for the 'Cancun 2010' Category

COP16 In Two Minutes

Explaining what happens at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties is difficult at the best of times. Journalists, Civil Society organisations and governments struggle to translate the technical language of international climate policy into understandable public information. Young people can help distill the essence of the negotiations – and sometimes into video form.

In this example, the UK Youth Climate Coalition have summarised the COP16 Cancun talks in this short clip. Surprisingly and depressingly accurate.

U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 2: Taking Action

This piece can also be found at:

Outside of the Cancun Messe at the international climate talks, runners Kevin Osborne from the U.S and Yingao Chen from China take their mark at the starting line. A sports commentator calls out: “It’s a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the wind is blowing and our two competitors are ready to begin this epic race for a brighter and more prosperous world”. At the sound of a whistle, the runners take off, racing toward the clean energy future.

What is the story behind this race? The U.S and China are major emitters and major economies with a complex relationship and huge opportunities to lead the clean energy economy…

At this moment in time, U.S is falling behind during a time that  we most need economic revitalization and a competitive new  job sector. While China has taken huge strides in building their  renewable energy sector, much of their turbines and solar  systems are exported while more new coal plants are  constructed to meet growing energy demands.

U.S leadership has come empty-handed to the negotiations and continues to accuse China of holding up progress. Relations between U.S and China remain tenuous and marked with antagonism and mistrust.

Can the two countries overcome their differences and rise to the challenge? Who will emerge victorious in the clean energy economy?


Continue reading ‘U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 2: Taking Action’

Raising our voice for a Just and Stable Future

This Tuesday, student activists from New England had an exciting opportunity to present our Declaration for Clean Energy to leadership and press at the UN Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico.

Students for a Just and Stable Future in front of the Massachusetts state house. The New England Coalition unites justice and sustainability issues and pressure the state government to act.

The Declaration for Clean Energy is a five page document written by 170 members of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), a New England based network of students who have united to fight climate change and work towards a just and stable future for all of humanity.  At the press conference in Cancun, student delegates presented our declaration with a statement demanding legitimate action from policymakers on all levels of United States government to pass meaningful comprehensive legislation on climate, and insisting that global leaders agree to a legally binding treaty that will return our global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to a safe level of less than 350 parts per million.

As the international negotiations begin to wrap up, it is clear that they will not produce any real results.  Powerful nations are refusing to hold themselves accountable, the seriousness of the science is still being ignored, and the voices of youth and disadvantaged communities are being shut out completely.  Ethan Buckner, a student delegate from the Sierra Student Coalition who presented on our behalf, had his badge taken away and was removed from the negotiations shortly after our press conference simply for participating in a march alongside youth from the global south, indigenous people, and environmental justice communities who are already suffering from the effects from climate change.  Simply put, International leaders are ignoring the voice of the people, and they think they can get away with it. Continue reading ‘Raising our voice for a Just and Stable Future’

U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 1: Discourse on Action

Adapted from a press briefing between American and Chinese youth in Cancun. Click here to see a clip from this briefing aired on China Central TV.

For the past two weeks at the U.N negotiations in Cancun, youth representing the major world powers, from the Chinese Youth Delegation, Sierra Student Coalition, SustainUS, and Cascade Climate Network, have converged in Cancun to form the U.S China Youth Climate Exchange, an innovative, multi-pronged initiative and to demonstrate the sort of cooperation and creativity that our nations’ leaders should be working toward to solve the climate crisis.

One crucial aspect of our efforts is a shared action to send the message to U.S. and Chinese politicians; we need both China and the U.S rising to the occasion, racing toward the clean energy future. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work closely with Yingao, my counterpart on the Chinese youth delegation to plan and drive forward this action. In planning this action, what began as a very tactical alliance turned into a much more meaningful and beneficial experience than I had ever expected.

U.S and Chinese youth met with lead-negotiator Jonathan Pershing to voice our vision for greater cooperation between our two countries.

As a young person from the U.S, I am very concerned with our nation’s role in climate change, and in stalling progress on international cooperation. I am also committed to the notion that in order to make a difference as youth, we have to be blunt and we have to be specific. Specifically, in order to fulfill our mitigation responsibilities and make a real contribution to international progress in time for COP17 in South Africa, we need to demand that President Obama match China’s solar growth rate and double wind capacity in the next year.

After my first few meetings with Yingao and other Chinese youth delegates, I began to realize that American and Chinese youth have very different perspectives on our governments and the best way to inspire political progress. As I encountered these differences, I began to fear that my vision for this action would be compromised and so I asserted my own will as if it was inherently at odds with those of the Chinese youth. These meetings left me feeling somewhat discouraged and fatigued- and as if I was coming up against a wall.

Then things started to shift- the platform on which U.S and Chinese youth were interacting and collaborating was expanding under my feet- the action was just one, important but not self-sufficient, aspect of these efforts. Throughout the first week of the negotiations, I participated in many eye-opening experiences. I attended a workshop led by U.S and Chinese youth on our unique histories and educational backgrounds, our governments and their approach to tackling climate change, and a philosophical evaluation of our own cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior between people from such distinct nations.  Also, during an “open space” session at our “diplomacy dinner,” I conversed with Chinese youth on issues as diverse as the role of religion in China, national security in U.S and China energy policy, and the Kyoto Protocol “Common but Differentiated Responsibility” clause.

"I took a philosophical glimpse at the cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior between U.S and China"

The overarching message and importance of the U.S China shared action was as evident in the planning process as it was in the execution of the action. I felt firsthand what it feels like to negotiate one’s own values, principles, and objectives with those of someone from a very different background. I also began to realize the importance of engaging the other and of acting in the spirit of cooperation, rather than opposition. As I got to know Yingao and other Chinese youth as individuals, we started examining our cultural assumptions and explaining our histories and the reasoning behind our beliefs. Once we began to share these insights, it became clear that we did not inherently disagree- in fact, most times we could understand where the other was coming from. Our dialogue did not feel like a series of traded concessions- it felt like a collaboration.

I say all this because I firmly believe that in order for our countries to reach any agreement and enable international progress to solve the climate crisis, we need to learn, use, and listen to the language of shared understanding. It is my hope that U.S and Chinese negotiators examine their own assumed boundaries to cooperation and begin to find opportunities for mutual collaboration.

Stay tuned for Part 2, Taking Action

The other Cancún…

The following is a recent dispatch from the Climate Reality Tour, a movement-building cycling tour from the coalfields of West Virginia, now present at the UN Climate Talks in Cancún.

12/6/2010 – Seven years ago the world’s small farmer, labor, and environmental movements converged in Cancún to stop the World Trade Organization (WTO) from tightening its iron grip on people and our planet.

The stakes of those talks were so high in 2003 that one Korean farmer, Lee Kyung-Hae, a member of Via Campesina, climbed the police cordon and committed a ritual suicide. Expansion of the WTO agriculture agreement would have meant death for millions of farmers, he said. He made the ultimate sacrifice to express absolute dissent.

Yesterday, with the global spotlight back on Cancún for the United Nations climate negotiations, Via Campesina marched to commemorate Mr. Lee’s heroic act. They honored his sacrifice by continuing in the struggle, demanding an end to climate change attacking its root causes, and to halt implementation of false solutions.

It’s no coincidence that Via Campesina is again in Cancún in 2010. Their organizations are clamoring for the same solutions as seven years ago. Support for rural, autonomous, sustainable development, an end to megaprojects like dams and mines, food sovereignty, land, water and other resource rights for indigenous peoples and small farmers who feed and cool the planet.

We in the global north have some catching up to do.

Movements elsewhere in the world are rapidly organizing, and organizing around root causes. Free from the framework of infinite growth and expansion and as opposed to embarrassingly over compromised legislation in the U.S., the solutions they advocate might actually prevent catastrophic climate change. There’s a near universal understanding that we must tackle the interrelated climate, economic and food crises with holistic new approaches, or humanity just might not make it. There’s a demonstrated willingness to sacrifice not just minor creature comforts or the added monetary costs of sustainability premiums on consumer products, but to literally put their bodies on the line, to brave acts of violence and repression that we can hardly imagine. To really sacrifice, like Mr. Lee.

So let’s not forget there are many Cancúns. 2003. 2010. The Cancún of the tourists and official delegates, and that of the workers and peasants, and social movements present this week. The 1,000s of Cancúns that will rise up in cities worldwide tomorrow, Dec 7th.

Join us tomorrow in demanding Climate Justice, NOW! The spirit of Mr. Lee and countless others will be with you, wherever you may be.

Canada’s Chance to Lead

Cross-posted from Corporate Knights

The Canadian Government has been aiming to lead the charge on government accountability since the day they entered office.  However, when it comes to accountability of climate change actions, their stance remains unclear.

The story begins with the usual suspect: the United States. The US is insisting that they will not be a part of any global climate change agreement unless there is some level of transparency and review of emission reductions from big polluters - such as China and India. And rumours have it that countries such as Canada, Japan, Russia and Australia are apt to follow suite.

The flip side of the coin is that China will not move on transparency (measuring and reporting its emissions) until the United States proves that it is serious about cutting emissions. There are a number of proposals on the table right now from various countries on how to deal with this disagreement. Continue reading ‘Canada’s Chance to Lead’

US and Canada: “Show the World that Cancun can.”

While climate change has become increasingly political among some countries, there is an increasing need to break away from this over the next two weeks in order to come down on key decisions here at the negotiations. And Canada, the United States, and Mexico may just be the ones to lead.

Mexico opened the annual United Nations climate change conference this week with candor and genuine thought. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary and this year’s President of the negotiations, opened the climate change talks with enthusiasm. She encouraged countries to have “dialogue in good faith,” and to urged negotiators to “preserve a collective good of enormous importance.” She spoke of the “flexibility needed from all” in order to find a common denominator amongst the room. She reiterated that this “will mean breaking out of our paralysis.”

Lykke Friis, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and President of the previous Conference, set the bar by telling negotiators to “keep a legally-binding treaty in our sights.” This is the ultimate goal, to be worked towards in the coming year. In strong-suggestion, she ended with, “Let’s show the world that Cancun can.Continue reading ‘US and Canada: “Show the World that Cancun can.”’

Signs of change: Day One at the COP16 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico

Cross-posted from WWF-Canada Blog —  November 29, 2010

(c) Fredy Mercay/WWF

I have arrived at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. The first thing I saw as I drove away from the airport in a shuttle was a massive billboard advertisement for the NISSAN Leaf, “100% electrico” car.

 The second thing I saw before we reached the outer perimiter of the airport property was a Monarch butterfly. It brought me back immediately to my childhood tape deck, playing a David Suzuki sing-along on Monarch butterflies.

With an icon of a solution to climate change, and an icon of biodiversity, Day One in Mexico was symbolic of our work as a whole. We ultimately attend these international negotiations on climate change out of our interest to protect biodiversity by implementing solutions to climate change. Continue reading ‘Signs of change: Day One at the COP16 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico’

Cancun 2010

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