by Joe Siegel

November 30, 2010:  I am blogging from COP-16/CMP-6 in Cancun, Mexico.  I arrived on day 2 of the two week Conference and will be here for one week.  My traveling companion is my 15 year old son.  Today’s youth will inherit the problem of climate change and so it seems fitting to begin passing down the knowledge to a generation even younger than the ones I have the good fortune of teaching at Pace.  My COP-16 experience began as I left my house via taxi to the airport.  When our driver heard that we were attending COP-16, he informed me about a novella he authored concerning a fictional U.S. president who somehow manages to swiftly establish a series of very innovative and aggressive measures to combat climate change.  We can only hope that, in reality, it will be so easy in the next two years given our current political climate.  Later, on the airplane, I sat next to a McGill University researcher who was traveling to COP-16 to present a study on comparative deforestation rates of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Panama.

We arrived in Cancun without much fanfare.  Only one year ago, crowds descended upon Copenhagen with very high, and perhaps unrealistic, expectations.  Those who attended that COP described the enthusiastic energy at the outset as palpable.  By contrast, expectations for Cancun are quite low and many question whether a multilateral climate change agreement through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is even possible. Unlike the frenetic experience of attendees navigating Copenhagen last year, we breezed through security with no lines as we enjoyed the calm balmy Cancun atmosphere.

Despite the low expectations for Cancun, there does appear to be a possibility of positive results on some issues, such as adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, and REDD Plus.  If there is to be a balanced package by the end of Cancun, the parties will also need to address some of the more difficult issues, including mitigation, finance, and monitoring reporting and verification (“ MRV”).  It will be interesting to see whether progress can be made on some of the more ripe issues even if it is not possible to make progress on the difficult ones.

Some of the tension surrounding one of the more difficult issues, finance, arose today in a plenary session we observed.  The plenary was the meeting of the COP’s Subsidiary Body for Implementation (“SBI”) and it concerned, in part, the financial mechanisms to support developing countries and, in particular, allocation of resources by the Global Environment Facility, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund, and the ability of least developed countries (LDCs) to implement their National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs).  It was clear that, from the perspective of LDCs, the money isn’t flowing fast enough.  More broadly, financing of developing countries by developed countries will be a big issue for this COP.   We also attended a portion of the other main plenary session, the meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (“SBSTA”).  We observed discussions about whether carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be an eligible project under the Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”).   It was clear that there was no consensus on this issue.  Other issues we heard during the SBSTA plenary included emissions from fuel used for international aviation and maritime transport, standardized baselines under the CDM, and afforestation and reforestation as CDM measures.  Contact groups were established for most of the SBI and SBSTA issues.  The contact groups are to prepare a draft decision to present at the closing plenaries later in the week.

I will try to post again as the week proceeds.