by Matt Jokajtys, Guest Student Blogger currently at UNFCCC-Cancun

Last week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon observed in a speech at Seton Hall University that “[g]one are the days when one country or bloc could take big steps, almost by fiat. Truly global action on global problems requires patience and determination… Collective action has never been easy – but today, it has never been more necessary.”1 As the negotiators get down to business on the second day of the climate conference, the Secretary General’s words are taking on a new meaning for me.

I’ve been following developments in the mitigation negotiations for my delegation. Since it deals with the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to respond to the threats of global warming, it is an extremely important part of the negotiations—and also one of the most contentious. Most of my time on the second day of the conference was spent in various coordination and drafting group meetings, where the challenges of collective action are readily apparent.

The complexity of the negotiating process is even more mind boggling than the circuitous bus route from the hotel zone to the security checkpoint in the Cancunmesse, and then over to the negotiations at the Moon Palace. On one hand the pace is painfully glacial—there is still no legally binding successor to the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and many statements made in the plenary seemed to be simply reiterating long-held political positions.

But at the same time, the negotiations can sometimes feel like they are going at break-neck speed—there are draft texts to be read, notes to be taken, reports to be written and sent back to the delegation, and meeting after meeting that overlap on each other. Before you know it, another twelve-hour day at the Moon Palace has slipped away. Such are the challenges of collective global action on global problems; and I can only hope that the patience and determination of everyone here can persevere over the inertia of the status quo.