The Americas

The lady with the yellow file folder is Christiana Figueres, who is the UNFCCC Secretariat and a Costa Rican
The lady with the yellow file folder is Christiana Figueres, who is the UNFCCC Secretariat and a Costa Rican.The guy with his hand near his face is Jonathan Pershing, the lead negotiator for the U.S. for the first week. He is giving a briefing in the American Delegate office.
The guy with his hand near his face is Jonathan Pershing, the lead negotiator for the U.S. for the first week. He is giving a briefing in the American Delegate office.

The title is an acknowledgement that more than just the US is playing a role here at COP17. Some of the most vocal and straightforward public statements have been made by South American and Caribbean nations, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and Grenada. These nations are not often shined upon by American media, and partly because of this, I did not expect they would play a large role in Durban. One of the more interesting aspects of the COP process is that every nation gets to be here and has a voice.

Many of the North and South American countries have encouraged the urgency and necessity of action, more so than any other continent as far as I can tell. The delegate of Grenada, who was speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), put it best, “We keep hearing delay, delay, delay. We say now, now, now”. The UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres who is a Costa Rican, echoed a similar position when she said we need action on climate change “as soon as possible, as soon as possible. Like. Right. Now.” Venezuela is also an interesting case because it is a large oil exporter and could face moderate to severe economic impacts if a climate commitment drives down the demand for oil. Hopefully other nations take a similar stance and put climate change first.

The US is still a big player, probably the biggest from the Americas. The rumor is that the US is well prepared by having many levels of scenarios they’d like to see, much like an onion. I can’t say where the current COP is falling within their hierarchy, but it seems that little has changed from last year, which is probably to their liking. I should caution that by saying it is “to their liking” that I simply mean it is going as well as they could expect. The State Department is in a very difficult position because Congress is very opposed to doing anything on climate change, so even though the State Department agrees with the science, they feel they can’t agree to ambitious cuts here at Durban. They need a fairly mild agreement to get the U.S. to sign on. In essence, the political reality reigns supreme over the scientific reality. At least this is my understanding of the position taken by Jonathan Pershing, who was the lead U.S. negotiator for the first week of the conference.

Let’s not forget our Canadian friends to the North. They are being characterized as a villain by many NGOs here for “putting polluters over people” in the case of the tar sands. Additionally, they are getting grumblings from the other nations for pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. They need to take this position if they want to develop the tar sands because the carbon footprint of the tar sands would rank 155th worldwide if it were a nation. It would be sandwiched between Denmark (#154) and New Zealand. Basically if they mine the tar sands, the rest of Canada would need very, very ambitious cuts to be in line with an extension of Kyoto.

A delegate from Grenada Mexico is at the table and supports 350
A delegate from Grenada. Mexico is at the table and supports 350.

Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Published in:
Topic tags: