New Internationalist

Postcard from Cancún

Last week, 193 delegations gathered in Cancún, Mexico, to do something about climate change. Although the negotiations were widely written off as a failure before they even started, the show had to go on – and it has.

The 2 December issue of El Periódico de Quinatana Roo, Cancún’s regional newspaper, was almost exclusively dedicated to COP 16 – except for the Life and Style section, that is. Its front page carried photographs of activists demanding action on climate change, now.

It’s no secret that nobody expects a deal at Cancún. Brazil’s chief negotiator Luiz A Figueiredo said in a press conference that this time around, just like at COP 15 in Copenhagen a year ago, there is ‘a game of “I’m not doing until you are doing”, followed by a game of blaming [each other]’. He added that his country is not interested in participating in any of these games.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Pershing, who is leading the US delegation, announced that he ‘personally believes’ that the negotiation process would deliver results, and assured the world that all the COP 16 participants recognize the seriousness of the [climate change] problem and the challenges it poses.


We’ve heard it before. Our leaders recognize the problem so much that they start living in some sort of ‘that’ll do’ attitude. Or – worse – they become obstacles in the very process they claim to be solving, as Miguel Valencia, coordinator of Klima Forum 2010, said. He condemned countries including the US, China, Brazil and the EU, for standing in the way of achieving a deal on fighting climate change we so desperately need.

Miguel is not alone on this one. Klima Forum – an alternative grassroots gathering – is buzzing with different experiences being shared and exciting ideas being exchanged. Daily workshops are held in huge tents, lunch, which starts at 1.30 pm, is used for networking and continuing heated discussions, and there is a spirit of community in the air. It does make a stark opposition to the glamorous, air-conditioned buildings where the COP 16 is taking place – let alone for all the federal police officers with automatic rifles around them.

Some say Klima Forum is more important than COP 16 itself – the faith in the international community getting its act together on time is so small nobody bothers to mention it.  

‘There should be more of us,’ I hear many times. Indeed, Klima Forum, surrounded by bright green trees during the day and starry skies after the sun sets, feels too empty. Might it be its distant location (an hour’s bus ride from downtown Cancún)? ‘How many people do you expect?’ I ask one of the Forum’s volunteers. ‘We don’t know. More.’ Tomorrow a new influx in the form of the caravans of Via Campesina will arrive.

It will be a new day. But the pressures of today won’t go away.     

Quote of the day: ‘You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me you need more time.’ (Christina Ora, Youth delegate addressing COP 15 in Copenhagen, December 2009, as reproduced on blue T-shirts worn by young North American activists at the Klima Forum)

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  1. #1 Timbyr 07 Dec 10

    Klima forum blog

    Hi Giedre:
    I liked your blogpost. I lost track of you at the march today,my e-mail is [email protected] You are prbably quite busy but I would like to hear more about The New Internationalist if you have time to meet this week or maybe I will get lucky and see you at another event. Nice blog post and nice to meet you. I went to Villa Campesino this evening and heard a bit of a different take on Klima Forum which was interesting. Anyway it woul dbe nice to hear back from you when you have a chance

  2. #2 Iris Gonzales 08 Dec 10

    Congratulations Giedre! I'm looking forward to reading more about your experience there. The quote of the day hits right home! Cheers.

  3. #3 Giedre 13 Dec 10

    @Tim, will get in contact with you!

    @Iris, thank you. :)

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About the author

Giedre Steikunaite is a freelance writer and active observer currently based in London. Former editorial intern at the New Internationalist and an award-winning blogger, she has worked as a reporter for current affairs weekly Panorama and freelanced for various other publications.

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