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Cancun talks off to a slow start

By Rachel Baird | 1 December 2010

A year ago, delegates at the UN's climate change talks were shivering in Copenhagen, and abandoning their high expectations of an international agreement to tackle global warming. 

Twelve months on, some 20,000 people from across the world are in the Mexican coastal resort of Cancun for this year's big round of climate negotiations.

Working at Cancun climate summitDelegates have swapped a Scandinavian winterscape for a place which, with its kitsch hotels and palm trees, feels like Disneyland set in a tropical hothouse; I was delighted to find an iguana at the bus stop from which I tried to reach the hotel where the talks are taking place. 

Inside the venue, however, the mood seems subdued. Delegates appear resigned to the idea that reaching an effective and just global agreement on climate change is going to take years.

That's longer than we've got. 

Already, people living in poverty across the world - the ones who did least to cause the crisis - are struggling with more frequent and devastating droughts, floods and hurricanes, which are consistent with the expected effects of climate change. 

Scientists say that in order to keep the warming of the atmosphere to the 2-2.4°C considered 'safe', the world's emissions of greenhouse gases must peak in 2015

But here in Cancun I can't see any rush to make that happen. Instead there remains a terrifying gap between the action that science shows is required and what political leaders are prepared to do.

It's still early days, but so far I have the impression that countries are still finger-pointing or demanding that others move first, rather than proposing genuine compromises which could get a virtuous circle going.

Negotiators have until the end of next week to break this deadly pattern, rise above the deceptive 'safety' of their climate acronyms and demonstrate some real political courage. 

The Americans are unlikely to do this, given the state of their domestic politics, but come on, European Union negotiators, how about you?


What you can do

One of the success stories at Copenhagen was the emergence of a truly global movement for climate justice.

In Copenhagen, delegates from across the developing world, and Africa in particular, stood up to bullying from western lobbyists as they sought to put poverty and development at the top of the climate agenda.

Cancun is their chance to cement a position at the heart of climate negotiations. And you can support them from home.

Our International Photo Petition is a visual message to the world's most powerful decision-makers, calling for a fair and meaningful approach to tackling climate chaos.

You add your message via Flickr, we'll make sure they see it.

Act Now!  International Photo Petition 

 About the author

Rachel Baird

Rachel Baird is the policy and campaigns journalist in Christian Aid's media team