The U.N. Climate Talks Begin: Once More unto the Breach

The Austrian Alps. According to the UNFCCC, snow cover has declined by 10 percent since the late 1960s in the mid- and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations begin today in Cancun, Mexico, I find myself thinking of a scene from William Shakespeare’s Henry V. The play contains a famous speech by the King of England, exhorting his army to once again gather their strength and storm the French city of Harfleur after numerous futile attempts.

A sense of futility and failure also followed last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, as the negotiations failed to create a legally binding international agreement on climate change action. This time around the expectations are much lower — so much so that an international agreement is seen as more likely at next year’s South Africa meeting than here in Mexico. But here we are in Cancun, still resolute as the need for action is even more critical than it was a year ago.

Yet despite frustrations during the ongoing negotiations, we still need to move forward. But who will play the role of King Henry — the leader that steps in front and creates a pathway for progress? Today, during the opening remarks of each country participating in the negotiations, we all will be listening carefully for that sign of true leadership — not just tired old rhetoric.

During the next two weeks I hope to write about progress in crafting a pathway forward for an ambitious and fair international climate change agreement. Stay tuned.

Manuel Oliva is CI’s director of U.S. policy. Learn more about CI’s participation in and goals for the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun.



    Seems like a old fashioned gramophone record about to play again.The richest oil producers and emitters will confer and chip away a deal for themselves.Small and defensive cove bide their time or face financial consequences.Why in this technological of centuries bother what the bad countries are doing.Start another conference just for green countries and do away with China,USA,and their ilk.Maybe a new format may have to be implemented:-countries will have to supplement their GDP for credit and so-called carbon credits for assistance.More incentives and benefits for each green energy source and bio diversity in wealth shared between these green economies.Nothing at the moment is putting a halt to a addictive fossil fueled world.

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