A chance meeting

My hotel in Cancun – the strangely named Hotel Be Live Cancun – has particularly low-speed receptionists. On this matter, there is consensus between the parties, the parties in this instance being myself and the Maldivian deputy minister of the environment, whom I met this evening while we were both … waiting for reception.

Still, it was a useful chance to chat. The Maldives has a delegation of five members, five Maldivians, that is. But they add quite a few other delegates from international NGOs to their delegation. Here in Cancun, for example, they have no less than 12 Yale students attached to their delegation.

Deputy Minister Shareef considers that NGOs play an invaluable role in supporting the delegations of less developed nations. Developed countries have large legal teams, he points out. “The NGOs, they are our legal teams,” he says. He is referring particularly to the Climate Action Network, which coordinates observers in all the meetings, constantly reporting back and providing updates.*

The difficulty for small country delegations is very simple. If you have six meetings running in parallel as part of the COP, as is happening here now, it is impossible to do justice to them all if you have only five members, never mind the problem of sheer fatigue setting in over two weeks of extremely intense work. It seems to me that the under-resourcing of developing countries is a great injustice at the heart of this process.

“Things here are very restricted,” Shareef says of this Cancun COP. There is not enough NGO access to the sessional meetings in the Moon Palace, and the distance between the Moon Palace and the Cancunmesse makes it difficult for party (country) delegates to support side events without losing time. “Make sure things are different in Durban,” he urges us. We must lobby to ensure that parties and observers [NGOs] are working side-by-side, that protests are not shoved out to the margins where delegates don’t have to see them.

There are representatives from Durban’s International Convention Centre here. When I asked them what “a People’s COP” means to them, they hadn’t the faintest idea.

*Here’s an example of a message from the CAN Talk mail list, with abbreviations decoded:

In the AWG KP [ad hoc working group on the Kyoto Protocol] this evening:


“We are not living in 1997…

We acknowledge the historical role of the KP but the situation is changing fast…

2020 target was pledged under the Copenhagen Accord, not the KP. Japan will not inscribe its target under the KP on any conditions or under any circumstances. KP will not deliver a truly global outcome. Only the LCA [long-term cooperative action, the other main negotiating track] can do.

This means that one of the early, big stories of this COP is the renewed battle between those countries wishing to kill the Kyoto Protocol, and those determined to preserve it – amongst them, South Africa.

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