These are extremely complex, highly intense meetings. Setting aside for a moment the issue of to what extent they are genuinely productive, I find the COP quite awe-inspiring – I don’t know if history offers any precedents for anything quite like this – tens of thousands of highly motivated, skilled and knowledgeable people gathering for two weeks to try to hammer out a consensus that does some justice to the needs of seven billion people – and untold numbers of other living beings – on this planet.
Anyway, to give you an idea of the range of meetings happening under the broad umbrella of the COP, this is one official summary of what’s happening here (remember that this event’s fuller title is COP16/CMP6):
The 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16) and the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 6) will take place from 29 November to 10 December 2010 in Cancun, Mexico. The meeting also comprises the 33rd sessions of the Subsidiary Bodies, the 15th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the 13th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC.
The focus of this meeting is on enhancing long-term international climate change cooperation and it continues the two track negotiating process – the Bali Roadmap – agreed by the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007. The original deadline for completing negotiations under both the Convention and the Protocol was the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, held in December 2009, but as many issues remained outstanding, the mandates of the two AWGs were extended until Cancun where they will report their respective outcomes to COP 16 and CMP 6.
So bear in mind then that since 2007, the negotiations have had two parallel tracks. That might end here, or might be extended.Then remember that shadowing these official meeting of the subidiary bodies to the UNFCCC, and the different negotiating bodies, are a multitude of NGO observers, furiously communicating and lobbying over policy minutiae that sometimes become irrelevant in a moment, and sometimes become highly significant.