Hopes of Accomplishment

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. Everything began to take shape yesterday morning: 200 NGO booths were hosted while thousands of individuals from delegate parties, NGOs and press were all rushing to various locations on site, without stopping for anything. The intensity of the conference has become apparent and the urgency of accomplishment is lingering over the participant’s heads. On my bus ride in, during the morning commute, I was able to overhear an incredible conversation from the individuals in front of me.  They were two persons from different UN divisions; one was from Panama, while the other was representing Kenya.  They were both discussing this conference and what they hope and expect as an outcome.  Later in the conversation, the individual representing Kenya stated, “We need a green revolution, and we need it to be more intelligent than before.”  I subsequently found out that this statement was a perfect description of the the initiatives taken by the delegates. In the afternoon, I attended the “COP16/CMP6 President’s Initiative on Stakeholder’s Engagement in Climate Action” forum.  This meeting was billed as a “special interaction of stakeholders with Parties” and included Mexican President Felipe Calderon and COP16/CMP6 President Patricia Espinosa, along with other influential delegates.  The brief lectures and updates given at this discussion were uplifting to the spirit of the conference.  All of the individuals involved expressed the need for accomplishment, but not the need to make a huge leap by the end.  “We cannot leave with just promises” stated Carlos Zarco, director of the Oxfam confederation.  “This is a very complex process but we need to take a step forward.”


Other diplomats, such as Simon Anholt, who is an independent policy advisor, stressed that civil society and their opinion have the potential to be a major, contributing factor to the climate change debate.  The individual who encouraged this type of action most was President Calderon.  At the beginning of his presentation, President Calderon referenced COP15 – the 2009 Copenhagen conference - and how we all may have dismal memories, but noted that the conference did not dismiss without putting climate change on the top of the global agenda.  Furthermore, there is a need to mobilize society as a whole and not lose sight of the future.  With the suggestion to engage young minds, there is emphasis on creating more awareness about the issue, in hopes that with a larger society engaged, more appropriate action will come forth. Calderon, however, noted the difficulty of developing an appropriate policy with 200 nations involved in the debate.  My personal question is: How does merely inviting more individuals to the debate encourage significant progress? In the end, President Calderon compared the steps of this conference to a football game: “We need to get the first 10 yards, before we are able to reach our goal.”

Author: anthonytomaine

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  1. It seems to me that something has to be decided, or else the conference was just a bunch of representatives from different countries getting together to talk about climate change, but doing nothing else. I hope that more can come out of this COP16 than did COP15.

    Of course, this is much easier said than done. I wonder how over 200 countries are supposed to agree on the best way to help the environment. Since everyone has their own opinion, is it possible that one major choice can be accepted by so many? Does the decision need to be one specific plan that each country will follow to fight climate change or does each country propose their own way?

  2. I really like that fact that the people attending these meetings are so concerned and deticated to the issue that they even talk about it in their free time on their morning commute. It makes me feel really at ease because of the fact that the people who could do the best to help fix the climate change problem are there. I feel it will be difficult for the 200 countries attending to try and make some sort of mutual agreement of what they feel would be the best to fix the problem and that every countries problems are a little different, but I’m sure whatever the outcome will help the planet in a postive way.

  3. I like the realistic outlook of this conference. It’s one thing to state the final goal of carbon neutrality, but that is a very ambitious goal to set especially for the world as a whole. Small benchmarks need to be set in the meantime. Without a clear understanding of what needs to be done in the here and now there is no progress. Promises are all fine and good, but without a plan, you can’t fulfill those promises

  4. I liked how they were very honest in their presentations. This is not a task that we can simply knock out quickly. This will take a lot of time and also a lot of thinking. By incorporating many representatives from different countries, it will be hard to agree on one specific solution, but if we put them all together in the end, we may have a better outcome.

  5. I agree with Melissa. If they want to see a change and come up with a plan the 200 countries have to reach an agreement. Talking about the problem isn’t going to get you anywhere.
    But it is nice to see that they want to make a change, and solve the problem.

  6. Seeing all 200 countries strive to reach their goal based on what they believe is the right conclusion to, well, exactly what President Calderon stated; to reach the first 10 yards before they reach their goals (the touchdown.) In order for all these countries to accomplish such a great goal is to not just talk about what needs to be done; but start off step by step and experimenting what could work and what could not work. I understand this is a very difficult task and could be expensive; but smaller steps is what the countries need to do before they take leaps to their goals; instead of just concluding one one solution; multiple solutions should be taking into account for and going from there.

  7. He is absolutely right. In this situation, like in others, we must take baby steps to reach our goal in the end. I believe that in the end, it is all of our responsibilities to make this change seeked by all the people attending this conference. I hope that the conference can lead action on the parts of all of us. In the end, it is our home that we are fighting for.