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The last five days of talks

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What's the story so far and what can we expect over the next five days of the United Nations COP 16 climate talks in Cancun?

1- The Harper government is repeatedly stating that it favours a single, legally-binding agreement and that it does not support the second commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol; this essentially means that Canada - along with Japan, Russia, likely Australia and other countries - are ensuring that there will not be agreement on this critical second phase of legally-binding targets at this summit in Cancun and that the tilt is toward the weak, non-binding and corrupt Copenhagen Accord; the Council of Canadians was able to break this story in Canada (with reports in Le Devoir, La Presse and numerous Postmedia News reports);

2- While the Harper government has been slightly on the defensive saying that it is not here to kill the Kyoto Protocol and is making assurances that the negotiating process here is fair and inclusive, it does appear that our government is here to kill Kyoto, there are first-hand reports of backroom meetings, and news reports suggest that the Harper government faces little political risk or electoral consequence for the positions it has taken; they have also effectively used the ‘common-sense' argument that the emerging developing countries of China and India must be included in a binding agreement as cover for Canada's own inaction on climate targets;

3- While some incredible activism is happening, the social movement presence here is not as strong as it was in Copenhagen and appears to be more splintered and is definitely geographically dispersed across and outside the city; there were approximately 500 people at the opening the Via Campesina forum (where the caravans that the Council of Canadians participated in reported to those gathered), 500 or more at the opening of the Espacio alternative forum (where we held our Arctic screening yesterday afternoon and a rights of nature workshop this morning), and about the same number in total over the past week or so at the Klimaforum (which we visited at its location more than 90 minutes from downtown Cancun), as well as other groups following the inside track negotiations (again, including us);

4- There are reports that some kind of face-saving deal will be reached that will give the impression of progress, but it's not clear what that will include; it's difficult to get a sense of what ‘progress' will be made on the various problematic issues of the World Bank administering a global climate fund (our negotiator supports this, but says the tar sands-investing RBC would be suitable), the amount of money that will be in that fund, and the use of market mechanisms like REDD. It would also appear that any of the recommendations from the peoples conference in Cochabamba are no longer on the table (having been included in the draft text in lead-up preparatory meetings), or at the very least they are not seriously being considered;

5- It remains to be seen what the end-game of this conference will be with the arrival of the ministers tomorrow and a small number (25) of leaders on Thursday; there is some hope that we will have a major march tomorrow, but without some dramatic intervention or development, it will not be enough to shift the energy of the COP 16 talks; given the severity of the climate crisis, the real implications of insufficient action on the part of our governments, the unacceptable actions of the Harper government, its very clear that we have our work cut out for us over the next year and toward the next major UN conference of parties talks in Durban, South Africa (November 28-December 9, 2011).

Brent Patterson, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Council of Canadians


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