The United Nations Climate Change Negotiations are in their final 48 hours in Cancun, Mexico. WMNF’s Kelly Benjamin is there and reports that tracking down and speaking to the US delegation at the 192 country summit has been a bit of a challenge.
I’m in a building called Cancun Messe, here at the United Nations Climate Summit, a large convention room that acts as a security gateway to the place the actual negotiations on how to deal with climate change are taking place. That's at an exclusive beachfront resort a few kilometers away called Moon Palace.
That’s the sound of the security scanners making sure everyone has a valid ID badge before entry. Every day delegates from 192 countries and dozens of NGOs, press, and staff pass through these checkpoints. It’s been known to bottleneck just like the TSA security screenings at the airport, except here, they don’t make you take off your shoes.
Today, my goal is to meet with representatives from the US delegation, despite being blown off via email, I have some questions I’d like to ask them.
One of these questions is about last week’s Wikileaks US embassy cables published in the Guardian that revealed how the US engaged in a secret global diplomatic campaign to force nations to sign on to last year’s non-binding climate deal, the Copenhagen accord.
"I can't really answer any of those, you have to direct those to our press office."
The thing is, I have tried to contact the press office several times.
"That's the only method we have right now is, there's so many questions coming in. I can't give you any more than that other than to speak to our press office."
I’m not the only one having issues getting in touch with the US delegation. Bob Gruenig is the senior policy analyst for the National Tribal Environmental Council.
"Of course my perspective coming here was to try to bring more visibility with respect to indigenous peoples and we have attempted to set up some meetings with the delegation to get a sense of how they're taking indigenous peoples' issues, and tribes in the US, their issues into account. And so far we've not been able to get a meeting with them and the same was true when we were in Copenhagen as well. So, with respect to indigenous peoples issues, we're not really privy to what's going on behind the scenes."
Someone who is privy to the going’s one behind the scenes is Alex Stark, she’s the American negotiator tracker with TCKTCKTCK, a global climate action campaign.
"I have a lot of sympathy for the US delegates here. I really think their hands are tied in a lot of ways in these negotiations. On the one hand they have to report back to the State Department and to President Obama. They also have to, and this is something they emphasize repeatedly, they have to find a deal here that they can bring back to Congress."
Stark says that despite the reputation of the US at the climate talks as being “obstructionist” to progress on an agreement, she does think their role here is important.
"Certainly a lot of negotiators and civil society organizations here see the United States as blocking a lot of progress on the different issues and a lot of times, frankly, the US gets a bad rap at these negotiations. It's not always unfounded certainly, but I do think that the United States is playing an important, if not necessarily terribly constructive role.
"Certainly just because the United States emits more than a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions it's essential to kind of bring them into this process. I'm genuinely hopeful that, you know, you hear all the negotiators say they want to see a balanced package of outcomes here. I do think that that's achievable. Not necessarily a binding emissions reduction agreement."
But Rolf Skar, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace doesn’t think that’s enough, although he agrees that the US is playing an important role.
"The US is arguably still the most important party in the negotiations, even if it's by holding things up. For example, in REDD, we've seen a lot of the weakening of standards, and the 'low bar' setting, if you will. Basically we start to match US positions, so parties from the EU to other important parties in these discussions have over time gradually watered down their policy standards to basically match the US. Unfortunately, what we see is a bit of a race to the bottom on some of these issues in order to bring the US along."
Huzi Mshelia, a Green Energy Consultant from Nigeria, echos these concerns.
"The United States has not been quite helpful on this negotiation. First of all on the terms of pledges, the United States, even though it's not a party to the Kyoto Protocol, was supposed to take some comparative commitments, those are not forthcoming. I think the United States has not shown leadership in this negotiation that it ought to have shown as the world's leading country, and I think it's quite regrettable."
Regrettable is one way to put it, but in a speech today in front of the United Nations, the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, used a different word.
"We will be responsible for Ecocide, which is equivalent to genocide because this will be an affront to mankind as a whole. And hearing from experts and scientists, 300,000 people die a year already because of climate change. And it's calculated that in coming years this will be 1,000,000 deaths. Human beings dying every year as a direct result of climate change. The human being cannot live without Mother Earth. ... The planet can very well exist without us.
"We're talking about survival, living in harmony, co-existing with Mother Earth. We are here in Cancun to save nature, to save the forests, and in short to save the world. We're not here to turn nature into a good, an asset. We're not here to try to ensure the survival of capitalism with carbon credits. The forest is sacred to the people's of the world and we cannot allow new policies merely to insure the survival of capitalism.
"Ladies and gentlemen if we do not genuinely believe in why global warming has occurred, in other words, capitalism, then we can have endless meetings between presidents and organizations but we will never find a solution to this problem that affects mankind, each and every one of us. But let me say that I am persuaded that if governments fail to do so then it will be the people who will assume the responsibilities that should be borne by our governments."
Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, spoke through a translator at the United Nations Summit today in Cancun. The Climate Change talks come to a close tomorrow with nation’s of the world having less than 24 hours to come up with a concrete agreement to tackle climate change.
This story originally aired on the WMNF Evening News, December 9, 2010: Listen HERE.