Mexico is a vibrantly beautiful country - on the edge of the Carribean it has clear turquoise seas and huge expanses of forest. And, much like South Africa, it’s also a developing country trying to deal with the complex problems of job creation and poverty.

I’m in Mexico for my first COP where the negotiations are split between two venues: the Cancun Messe where the NGO space is located (together with the security checks) and the Moon Palace, where the actual negotiations/meetings happen.

You have to get on a bus to get from the hotel to the Messe and then from the Messe to the Moon Palace… This meant that today was filled with two things: traffic jams of epic proportions (most people spent nearly two hours stuck in traffic trying to get into the Moon Palace) and lots of talking. And by ‘talking’ I mean the open sessions that happen on the first day, when the negotiations are formally opened and the ground rules are set - all of this before the real negotiating begins.

I can’t help looking at these negotiations through the lens of what it’s going to be like when South Africa hosts COP 17 in Durban next year (it was officially announced today that COP 17 will run from 28 November until 9 December 2011).

Hosting a COP gives a country certain privileges within the negotiations, because the country ‘presides’ over the conference, but the host country also has a great deal of responsibility to actually drive the negotiations forward and get results.

I’m really hoping that South Africa learns some lessons from this COP, and that in 2011 the South African government not only finds a functional (and efficient) way to host the meeting (which has thousands of delegates) but also finds a way to bridge the gap between what countries are prepared to agree to and what countries need to agree to save the climate.

However, that’s all future-thinking. Right now what we need to be focusing on is the outcome of this round of negotiations. Most of the opening submissions today covered the need for urgency in dealing with climate change – the next two weeks will be a real test of whether those words can be translated into action.