As climate-change talks get under way, negotiators are filled with a sense of foreboding.
Maybe the name has something to do with it – Cancun means “nest of serpents” in the original Indian language of the area – but it would have been hard to pick a less propitious place to host a conference widely hailed as the last chance to get international negotiations to combat climate change back on track.
For this Mexican resort has an unrivalled record in consigning such talks to the compost heap of history. In 1981 it was here, at one of Ronald Reagan’s first summits, that global negotiations on tackling world poverty went off the rails, even if it was the intransigence of developing countries rather than the old ham himself that was to blame. Beside these same azure seas 20 years later, the current round of world trade talks went awry and have yet to recover.
A sense of foreboding is one of the few points of general agreement among the 15,000 participants congregating for the next two weeks on this long thin strip of land, marooned between a wide lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. Jairem Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, sees it as the “last chance” for climate change talks to succeed; Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, believes a disappointing outcome would “put the whole process in danger”; and American and Canadian politicians are thinking of moving negotiations to other, more selective, meeting places. No wonder Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, says that Britain’s main goal over the next two weeks will be “keeping the show on the road”.
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