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Pre-COP ministerial meeting in Mexico sets the stage for Cancun
Image This year’s pre-COP ministerial meeting was held in Mexico City from 4 – 5 November 2010, attended by representatives from all negotiating groups. This informal meeting is held annually in advance of the Conference of the Parties, providing a conducive setting to discuss important issues before formal negotiations begin. In Focus spoke to Patricia Espinosa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and incoming President of COP 16/CMP 6, who hosted the pre-COP, and asked her views on the prevailing mood as we head towards Cancun. Image

Minister Espinosa, what would you say is the most important outcome of the recent pre-COP meeting?

The pre-COP was a very positive meeting, where participants discussed in a frank and open manner pending issues of the negotiations. The pre-COP is not a negotiating forum, but rather an opportunity to take stock of where we are and a great opportunity to further understandings among countries. Mexico organized a meeting open to all interested delegations and the attendance was broad and representative. We had good discussions and the political will and commitment shown by all participants make me feel confident that we will achieve a good outcome in Cancun, one that could mark the beginning of a new era to face climate change.
The spirit of collaboration and trust shown by all participants at the pre-COP will allow us to find common ground as well as pragmatic, but at the same time action-oriented solutions during the Conference in Cancun.

How would you describe the overall mood going into Cancun?

I do believe that we are going into Cancun with a renewed sense of commitment. Mexico’s efforts to restore trust are recognized by all countries and there is no single State that wants to get rid of the multilateral process as the forum to achieve global solutions to the challenge we face. Parties are very well aware of the difficulties and challenges, but we all understand the urgency of the matter and the critical importance of finding solutions

From the extensive consultations Mexico has undertaken and all the voices we have heard, we know that there is increasing consensus on the need to act and to act now. There is widespread awareness that delaying the decision-making process increases the cost and the difficulty of achieving our goal of stabilizing the world’s average temperature at a level that will prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Thus, I am confident that in Cancun we have a real opportunity to make significant progress.

What do you regard as being both a desirable and realistic outcome in Cancun which would enable immediate and concrete action on climate change?

After one year of intensive consultations at all levels, I believe that most countries recognize that in Cancun we can adopt a set of decisions that is comprehensive, balanced, substantive, and action oriented. This package of decisions should be rooted in the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol and ensure progress in both tracks of the negotiations.

We know that Cancun will not be the end of our road to stabilize the global average temperature, but must be a significant step towards that end. The set of decisions should include actions in mitigation, including REDD+; adaptation; technology; finance; and capacity-building, among others, and should ensure transparency and contribute to further trust among countries. On the Kyoto Protocol track, the outcome should also be balanced, and provide confidence on the continuation of the Protocol and its mechanisms. We know that there are challenges and that we must be creative to ensure solutions that are balanced and recognize the different views among countries.

One of the questions that must at some point be resolved is that of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, a question that has been quite divisive up to now. What signs are there of a move towards common middle ground on this issue?

I am encouraged to see that no country has reduced its level of ambition or taken its emissions reduction target off the table. We also are aware that current mitigation pledges are short of what science tells us we must do to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is an important pillar of the climate change regime. Its future is a key and critical issue of our negotiations. Any decisions adopted under the Kyoto track will need to ensure balance with the results in the negotiations under the Bali Action Plan. It is difficult to predict the outcome, but I am certain that, as global responsible actors, all countries will look for solutions that enable us to make progress in all areas of our negotiations.

The status of the Copenhagen Accord, which is supported by 139 countries, but was not adopted as a decision in the final plenary of COP 15, remains a contentious issue. Is this debate likely to be reopened in Cancun?

The Copenhagen Conference was a great challenge in many ways. It did not deliver everything we wanted it to, and there were certainly great difficulties. But I believe that during Copenhagen we achieved important progress in many areas of the negotiations and that the Conference ended up with important understandings that are also being reflected in our negotiations. We have to recognize that the Accord is important for those Parties who agreed with it, but that it is not accepted by all. I do believe that we must focus on finding solutions and furthering our understandings to achieve a good outcome in Cancun.

What do you see as the main priorities of your presidency? Do you have any specific intentions?"

My priority is to ensure a successful outcome in Cancun. I am fully committed to continue negotiations in an inclusive and transparent manner. That is the way the Government of Mexico has conducted all consultations – formal and informal – throughout the year, and that is the way we will work in Cancun.

As President of the COP/CMP, I will act with responsibility and determination from the beginning of the Conference, and so will the members of my team. As I have expressed on several occasions, we will concentrate immediately on developing the balanced outcome that all Parties wish, and of whose elements governments already have a shared understanding. I fully trust and support the Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Groups and I do hope that working together we will achieve results.

How important will be the involvement of Ministers in the negotiations, and at what stage do you think they will become involved?

Fortunately, during all the ministerial consultations carried out throughout the year, including the pre-Cop, it has become very clear that Ministers are already involved, and in very constructive ways. They have engaged in open dialogues, tried to understand each others’ national positions and move towards compromise solutions. They have shown creativity and commitment, and some of them have put forward very interesting proposals that will undoubtedly enrich the negotiation.

I am sure that they will continue to be fully engaged in Cancun. Their involvement, of course, is essential, as we all know that several aspects of the negotiations require high-level political intervention. Additionally, they will provide the guidance and support negotiators require to shorten and streamline negotiating texts to turn them into manageable draft decisions.

How do you think the COP in Mexico can help raise awareness for the many issues related to climate change, not least in the Latin American and Caribbean region?

Mexico considers that climate change is a great challenge for mankind, but it also represents an opportunity for a greener, low-emissions development pathway. I firmly believe that it makes economic, social and political sense to engage in climate change action.

Cancun will undoubtedly raise public and personal awareness on environmental issues, attracting our citizens to reduce their ecological footprint, and promoting sustainability in their daily activities. Every single act, no matter how small, counts. Changing our decisions towards environmentally friendly technologies, services and products may certainly have a positive impact on the world.

What is your personal motivation for making Cancun a success?

It is a privilege for Mexico to be hosting these climate conferences later this month, but it is also a serious undertaking. Our generation stands at a crossroads, whether we wish it or not. Which path we take will define the future to an unimaginable extent. I am ready to step up to this task. I challenge others to grasp this historic opportunity.

We are building the future our people deserve. A future in which our children and their children will have all the opportunities that we had and more. Tackling climate change and ensuring sustainable development is not an option - it is a necessity. It is the only way to lead in the 21st century. And it is the only way to continue to make progress toward the better world that we all seek.
I am confident that, acting together in Cancun, we will show our societies that we are committed to taking the next essential step to face climate change. We will also show that we are committed to the multilateral path as the only fair and effective route to resolve global problems. Our decisions will be very valuable by themselves, and will also allow for further, stronger commitments to address the climate challenge.