Mexican president dicusses deforestation, need for U.N. process reform
Mexican President Felipe Calderon -- who looked cool and crisp in one of his trademark guayabera shirts as the host of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Cancun -- sat down for an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday evening.
Calderon predicted that the climate talks would produce some meaningful agreements. He said there would probably be broad consensus to help countries battle deforestation, one of the leading causes of increased greenhouse gas emissions. "Most developing countries do not have major industries, and so most of their emissions come from deforestation," he said. "The poorest people in the world are often forest people, and so with these measures, we will reduce emissions and fight poverty."
To protect forests, negotiators here have been trying to complete work on a $30 billion "Fast Start" fund that would allow money to flow from wealthy donors, such as the United States and European Union, to countries such as Mexico. A lot of the Fast Start monies would go to protect forests, Calderon said.
Calderon expressed frustration with the cumbersome U.N. negotiating process. He said that Mexico "is playing by the rules, playing by the book" as conference hosts, insisting on transparency in talks and trying to help all countries rebuild trust after the climate conference in Copenhagen last year, which saw a small group of countries led by the United States break away to create side deals. "If this conference fails it will not be Mexico's fault," he said.
Of the U.N. negotiating process, where a single country can block movement, the Mexican president said, "the mechanism could be obsolete." He stated that he was not willing to wait 10 more years to see a climate deal. "If the rules are the reason, maybe we should think about changing the rules."
Searching for metaphors to describe a complex topic riddled with jargon, Calderon said global climate change is like a bus careening down a mountain road, with all the passengers -- all the countries of the world -- wrestling to grab the steering wheel and hit the brakes. "It could crash, and we want to avoid that," he said.
And reaching for a more biblical metaphor, the Mexican president suggested that the world's citizens need to scale back their expectations for the talks so that instead of waiting for Genesis to occur here in Cancun, they should compare the current stage of the negotiations to Exodus.
"We need to leave the slavery of Pharaoh. We need to change the situation we are in," he said, referring to the world's dependence on fossil fuels. "That's the decision we need to take here. We need to start a new era, in terms of fighting climate change."
And that may be possible, he suggested, given the attitudinal shift among leaders of some of the major emerging economies. "I can see a change from the big emitters" such as India and China, which just a few years ago "were saying we are too poor, we are too poor, it is not our duty to tackle climate change." Now? "China is making very important efforts to reduce emissions. We can no longer say that China is doing nothing. And India. India is playing quite an important role. I can see convergence between China, India and the United States. Time is passing. But I can see light at the end of the tunnel."
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