Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cop16: solving climate change in luxury resort

Setting down in Mexico for the Cop 16 climate talks one could not be further removed from the threats facing planet Earth. Set on the Yucatán Peninsula in the seaside resort of Cancún, nations have gathered once again to develop a strategy to combat climate change. 

The talks have already been widely criticised not only for failing to address the issues, but also for making a mockery of the seriousness of the threat by organising the conference in such an idyllic location. 

Delegates, ministers and representatives from dozens of NGOs have descended on the luxury beach resort which offers hotel rooms costing up to £240 [$380] per night. There are swimming pools, jacuzzis and sandy beaches patrolled by the Mexican army. 

Local environmentalists have lambasted the decision to hold the £43 million [$67 million] conference at the resort and say that the talks ignore local pollution and deforestation. In fact there are signs that little will be achieved at these talks, globally or locally.

Last week there were reports that cracks were emerging between rich and poor nations as most developing countries, including the world's biggest polluter, China, demanded an extension of the existing Kyoto Protocol, which commits wealthy nations to cutting emissions.

Japan, Russia and Canada have refused to sign up for this because the treaty does not also force China or the world's poorer nations to make cuts. Such deadlock has led to colourful protests outside the meeting rooms and heated language between negotiators. Claudia Salerno, the Venezuelan chief negotiator, said some countries are so frustrated "they want to go to the beach because there is nothing to do in this hotel next week."

On Sunday there was certainly plenty of space on the golden beaches for the more than 15,000 people who have flown in for the annual United Nations summit. But even the beach is a victim of environmental effects. Alejandra Serrana, an environmental lawyer in Cancún, said the lack of local controls has led to pollution of the sea and the beach has to be rebuilt every three years at a cost of £10 million [$15 million] because the sand is eroding so fast.

She claimed that many of the hotels in the resort are illegal according to environmental law. The Moon Palace, where Britain's energy and climate change minister Chris Huhne and some 45 delegates are staying, was built on protected forests without permission, Serrana insisted. "Everybody is talking about climate change and the environment, but we can't even get our own house in order," she said [Telegraph].

The massive carbon footprint left behind has also been criticised with some suggesting such debates should be discussed through video conferencing. The carbon footprint will be less than Copenhagen which saw some 45,000 people attend. But with only 15,000 people at Cop 16 and few world leaders attending, many feel the conference will achieve little. 

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