Letter from Cancun
I've never been to a COP before, but I certainly have felt and experienced the effects of climate change: in the drought that people face in my home country Kenya as a result of the disruption in rainfall patterns, and in the flooding that has seen lives lost, crops destroyed and cattle dying.
For someone like me - COP a first timer - boarding the shuttle buses that are ferrying participants to the COP has indeed been an experience. The buses snake through the hotels picking up participants from the different hotels and the roads have federal police directing traffic - giving us all some sense of security.
The beauty of Cancun cannot be overstated - the panoramic view of the beautiful beaches as well as the tropical vegetation is a sight to behold. I have also been able to meet people from all around the world with very different perspectives on climate issues, ranging from policy makers and government negotiators to those directly affected, like a participant who has come to have her voice heard as a member of an indigenous group which is dependant upon and has a close relationship with an environment and its resources that is among the most vulnerable to climate change.
But what is going on at COP 16? Several meetings are taking place at COP 16 - the COP meeting, and hundreds of side events that are organized by non-profit organizations such as us-the Green Belt Movement and private companies.
The official events are mostly related with these official groups’ discussions and presentations on the science of climate change led by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC). Official events are taking place at the Moon Palace Hotel. Side events are all concentrated in a nearby location at the Cancunmesse, built specifically for the event.
Interestingly enough, from what I have heard COP 16 has made the face of Cancun change towards a more environmentally friendly one. About 47 million pesos (approx. 5 million US dollars) were invested in improvements to the city to accommodate the COP. In addition, the security has been beefed up both at the Moon Palace hotel and at the Cancunmesse. At the hotel where we are staying-the Crown Paradise Club-one cannot fail to see police presence; evoking a feeling of security.
Speaking with an inhabitant of Cancun, I gathered that the federal government has promised to offset the carbon footprint of the COP by installing a wind turbine, but that questions abound as to whether these changes will be sustained or whether a green lethargy will descend on Cancun. Well, for me this is not a question that is exclusive to the citizens of Cancun but one that is relevant to all of us as global citizens.