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.”