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Hope at Cancun: the silent momentum

By Tim Hall - posted Monday, 6 December 2010

When I saw the real Cancun, it made me realise how much hope there still is for the planet. Under the warm sun on the Mexican coast, alongside the Caribbean Sea and home to debauched spring break party goers, a silent momentum is building.

This momentum is swelling among the civil activists gathered, but most importantly the momentum is spilling over into all the national delegations negotiating the future of our planet.

I arrived in Cancun with my expectations low, hoping at best for some relatively minor issues to be resolved. I expected cynical and divided negotiators, a hapless UN bureaucracy, and collection of defeated non-governmental organizations.


This time last year the momentum was roaring across the globe. We were at that all-or-nothing moment that was Copenhagen COP15. Throughout the year the hype and hope and been intense, with over 100 heads of states having been pressured by the public to gather in wintery conditions. They were there to forge a treaty that would strike down climate change in one grand swoop. All hopes had become pinned on it, and the world watched with nervous anticipation.

Then Hopenhagen became Brokenhagen. The Accord negotiated in secret in the dying stages of the conference was only "noted" by the UN, as opposed to "accepted". Serious flaws were also evident in the target, the process and the relationships between nations.

The outcome failed to live up to the expectations. It felt as if hope was lost and momentum was dead.

Throughout the year the dismal situation continued, with the Australian government ditching essential climate change legislation and adopting a weak stance on climate policy. A deeper blow was felt when Obama's climate legislation never even made it to Congress in the US.It's no surprise there are such low expectations around Cancún COP16.

Yet I believe Cancun will be remembered as a success. The real Cancun is not as loud as spring break parties would have you think. It is modest and shy; relatively silent on the very significant progress being made.


As I write this, I'm watching delegations scuttle around the conference centre; outside this bubble of activity it is close to midnight. So far I have witnessed an incredible push for action, and for the first time I feel as if we are approaching real success.

Cancun promises agreements on a balanced package of issues, which while being relatively minor to the major problem of cutting greenhouse emissions, will provide a solid foundation of consensus on which to build a new treaty.

The momentum surrounding these issues is incredible. Hundreds of NGO's, businesses and independent observers have flown in from around the world. Each has with it the silent momentum. There are no media-grabbing mass gatherings, spectacles or protests as there were last year. This year, it's about getting things done through targeted actions and steadfast commitment to the cause.

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About the Author

Tim Hall studies media communications and anthropology at the University of Melbourne. He's currently reporting for Change&Switch from Cancun, Mexico at COP16. Follow him @tallthall

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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