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.
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
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
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
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.