Reported by Sarah Sawyer, ELP alumni network coordinator

From November 29th to December 10th, 2010 the 16th edition of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and 6th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP16/CMP6) took place in Cancun, Mexico. Thirteen alums from seven different sessions of the Beahrs ELP program were there. After returning home, they shared some of their thoughts about the experience.

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Gender and climate change Roundtable

"Expectations were, as always, high" notes Adrian Ruiz (Mexico, ELP 2007), "as were the stakes for the Kyoto Protocol which was to expire in 2012." Mireille Linares (Mexico, ELP 2003), so proud of her country for its exhausting work as host, wrote that she "learned how extraordinarily difficult is to manage an event like this". But, in the end, all of that hard work paid off.

Titilope Akosa (Nigeria, ELP 2009), who participated in the International Roundtable on Gender and Climate Change, organized by the Institute of Development Studies , called the experience "most educative, exciting and fulfilling." And, as Denis Sonwa (Cameroon, ELP 2010) writes: "Cancun succeeded in restoring confidence."


ELP alums participated in a wide variety of seminars, forums, and roundtables during COP16, both sharing their vast breadth of knowledge, and learning from those around them. Ronny Roma (Guatemala, ELP 2006) participated in a forum entitled "Sacred Natural Places facing Global Warming: their Importance, Contribution and Resilience”. The forum highlighted both the Tokyo Declaration and the importance of understanding the role that indigenous communities play in natural diversity, conservation, and management. Roma's presentation underscored the importance of local institutions in the battle against climate change, and emphasized the need to analyze such institutions and their efforts to combat climate change.

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Titilope Akosa (Nigeria ) and Peter Mulbah (Liberia) Both ELP 2009 Alumni at a reunion meeting in Cancun

Titilope Akosa's (ELP 2009) organization, Centre for 21st Century, also organized a round table on African Women’s Decade and Climate Change, focusing on issues of gender and climate change which the African Women’s Decade should be addressing.

As CIFOR senior staff, Denis Sonwa (ELP 2010) was involved in the organization of Forest Day, a global platform for anyone with an interest in forests and climate change to come together and exchange their views. Sonwa was also able to attend an event organized by Avoided Deforestation Partners where a panel on California reminded him of his time at the ELP. "What was interesting," Sonwa notes, "was to see how the public-private partnership is useful in avoided deforestation."

Adrian Ruiz (ELP 2007) shares that "Despite all the hype and much theatrical tree-hugging, it was still possible to come across genuinely innovative ideas, and meet (or at least get close to) people who one usually only reads about in the papers, such as Sir Nicholas Stern, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Christiana Figueres and Mario Molina (Nobel Prize winning Mexico physicist and 1972 Berkeley graduate)."


The Cancun Agreements, as Mireille Linares (ELP 2003) notes, represent "a balanced and significant step forward." The agreements included many important and diverse components such as: "mitigation pledges; a system of transparency; substantial detail and content of international consultations and analysis; a new Green Climate Fund; a framework to reduce deforestation in developing countries; a technology mechanism; and a framework and committee to promote international cooperation and action on adaptation."

But these agreements were not easily forged, nor do they represent the end point in the struggle to mitigate climate change. Ruiz notes: "The Cancún Climate COP was one of those occasions where the search for a consensus undermined the best possible outcome, and had even become a threat to continued progress. Significant progress had been made in establishing a financial mechanism to deliver financing for adaptation/mitigation, REDD+ (compensation for avoided deforestation) and laying the foundation for the future transfer of low carbon technologies. With Bolivia the sole country to oppose adoption of the agreements, even after Venezuela and Cuba called on it to reconsider, the whole process was in danger of collapsing once again. However, in the early hours of Saturday, December 11th, Mrs. Patricia Espinoza, the COP’s President, took advantage of a procedural loophole on voting to declare that the agreements could be adopted despite lack of consensus, much to the dismay of Mr. Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s chief negotiator." (click to see a message from Bolivian President Evo Morales in English or Spanish and a reply in Spanish)

Perhaps the struggle for results made the reward at the end that much sweeter. "In a life time opportunity," writes Linares, "I experienced how my country joined the nations of the world for a new round of talks aimed at mobilizing common action to meet the shared global challenge of climate change. Today, I am pleased to observe how Mexico and other nations’ efforts secured the Cancun Agreements." Sonwa highlights the hope these agreements have instilled in many. "The hope is that this important step allows, in one way or another, the implementation of activities that can reduce the vulnerabilities of those who are currently facing adverse effects of climate change." But, as Linares cautions, we're not yet out of the woods. "The work is not done yet. In the days and months ahead, Mexico should work with its partners to keep the world focused on this urgent challenge and to continue building on this progress." The long term impacts of this important event remain to be seen.