CLIMATE CHANGE | And so it begins…..slowly…..


Monday the official negotiations began in Cancun.  At first, the size and the set-up of the meeting rooms intimidated me.  Then, I figured out the key component of international climate change negotiations: delay resolved by a heavy dose of patience. 

The day began with a massive traffic jam to get to the Cancunmesse (which holds side events, which are basically informational lectures/discussions on UN topics) and the Moon Palace (where the official negotiations are occurring).  This delayed the events 2-3 hours at the Moon Palace and caused cancellations of many of the side events at Cancunmesse.  I began to wander the events and attended two unsuccessfully; one on Mexican women in climate change (delayed) and one on Sweden’s growing GNP and decreasing CO2 (cancelled).  The delay seemed to be a pretty typical part of the UN process; everyone seemed to take it in stride and used the down time to write their articles, meet with other delegates, or catch up on some research. 

Luckily the presentation on Women in REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) began- and even on time.  The presentation discussed how women are currently excluded from the discussions on how to properly manage forests, even though they use the forests to provide for their families needs and to earn income.  The presenters were working to include women’s viewpoints in the discussion.  Learning about this issue reminded me how important every detail is when negotiating how REDD and other UN projects will proceed. 

I then took the bus to the Moon Palace to witness the official negotiations.  During the meetings, officers were elected and  opening statements were made from the main negotiating blocks (Small Island Nations, Least Developed Countries, G77 and China, etc).  As I listened to these statements, I realized that every group was advocating for very similar ideas: a legally binding agreement that includes transparency, equity, accountability, and substance.  Listening to these sessions made me wonder how everyone can want basically the same outcome, yet still not be able to agree to a mechanism to accomplish it.  At least the countries are agreeing to the basic tenants of the agreement; I am sure that was something that took a lot of work as well. 

After these formal sessions ended, the Mexican government hosted a reception for all participants (even our ‘limited access’ badges got us in!).  The session was quite impressive: widespread buffets, mariachi bands, stilt walkers, and beautiful decorations.  My delegation was even able to talk with the chair of one of the two main working groups of the COP.  She was very positive about the opportunities that Cancun presented and felt that their working group’s outcome would be successful.  I was struck that even though she was in such an important position in the UN, she was so down-to-earth and honest with us. 

Overall, the day helped me understand the formalities of the UN process; hopefully, Tuesday will show me what the ‘real work’ is like in the UN. 

To learn more about REDD Plus and the UN Negotiating Blocks, see the No Acronyms Left Behind guide under the Policy Section at

Check other blogs by my classmates at the I on E website,

State Senator Ellen Anderson, Representative Kate Knuth and a delegation of University of Minnesota students are attending the COP 16 conference in Cancun, and students will share the experience with TC Daily Planet readers through blog post from the conference.