It’s been quite a week in Cancun. The days here are long – most nights the Greenpeace team (we have people here from our offices across the world) doesn’t get back to our hotel before 9pm at the earliest.

One of the biggest problems to flare up this week was an announcement by Japan (the country that played a key role in creating the Kyoto Protocol) that it will not, under any circumstances agree to signing on to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. This may really start to block progress, but it remains unclear how tough Japan is actually going to be on this, or whether this is just (another) negotiating position.

Why would Japan not want to sign on to a second commitment period? Well, because the USA isn’t part of an international agreement on climate change. So developed countries argue that instead of continuing the KP, one single agreement on climate change should be reached, which would include the USA (and of course, action from the major emerging economies). The problem with this is that developing countries are not willing to let the Kyoto Protocol be ‘killed’ because it is better than nothing, and is the only thing at the moment tying developed countries into action.

There is a daily newsletter that is sent out during the negotiations by the Climate Action Network, and below you can read one of their more tongue-in-cheek messages about Japan, and it’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol (Note: Annex 1 countries are the developed countries that have signed on to reduce their emissions through the Kyoto Protocol (which is otherwise known as the ‘KP’):


At the end of the week there is what is called a ‘stocktaking plenary’ for each of the two tracks
(Kyoto Protocol and Long-term Co-operative Action) so assess where everything is – all countries are represented in the plenaries.

Overall, the atmosphere of the plenaries was positive and constructive – with countries talking about how they are willing to try to move forward and engage with the process.

A major issue however, is that of trust.

In Copenhagen last year (COP 15) the heads of state of a few countries (Brazil, India, China, South Africa and the USA) held a private meeting and came up with the so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord’ – which as a political statement about action to stop climate change. But it is not legally binding, and threatened the UN talks themselves – in a process where 192 countries are negotiating an outcome, getting agreement is difficult, but the threat of some countries leaving or going it alone is worse.

In the end, over 150 countries associated themselves with the Accord, but it has no legal standing in the negotiations and what has become clear here is that there is still a major ‘hangover’ from Copenhagen, with countries being very suspicious of ‘closed meetings’ or special agendas. The Mexican government (who are running these negotiations) have had to constantly reassure countries that there is no secret agenda and everything is open and transparent.

The texts that are being negotiated now still contain all the options to choose from – which means that as week two officially starts and the ministers from each country arrive to break the deadlock issues, we still have everything to play for.

The key questions that ministers will have to answer are related to the future of the Kyoto Protocol and the Long-term Co-operative Action track, together with finding a way to increase the ambition in emission reductions. However, the ministers are not supposed to be taking over the job of the negotiators, at least initially.

All in all, there is a constructive air at the moment – with most countries stating in public that they want to work hard for some outcomes from the meeting in Cancun. Let’s see what this week brings…