Cancun COP16 report from JUCCCE Advisor Robert Allender
From With COP16 now a moment in history, and the package making up the Cancún Agreements now in place, some reflections from my few days there. The side event I specifically came to participate in, organised by REEEP’s Energy Efficiency Coalition, was well attended and well received. The subject was building energy efficiency, and in addition to my own presentation on Asian exemplars, Professor Peter Boelsterli from Bern University of Applied Sciences raised some thought-‐provoking ideas on the topic of the training of architects and building professionals in China, where an architect might be working on not one or two but literally one or two thousand projects at the same time, and Fernando Mayagoitia , Project Leader for the Innovation and Sustainable Growth program at Urbi, one of Mexico’s major housing construction companies, regaled the audience with stories of the challenges and solutions involved in the remarkably successful Zero Energy Low Cost Housing programme showcased during the COP. REEEP and the EEC were instrumental in initiating the connection of parties which led to this success, bringing in the Canadian government which eventually provided the larger portion of the external funding, so Fernando’s enthusiastic report was especially gratifying. The wide variety of climates, the technology, policy, and finance hurdles, and the crying need for housing that would not drain low-‐income families’ budgets in the form of a lifetime of high energy bills are all elements of the Mexican story that will surely resonate with their Chinese counterparts. The roadmap developed to guide the Mexican case (and bear in mind they’re only at mile 1 along that road so far) would be worth a serious look. Among the literally hundreds of side events to the main negotiating session I made it my goal to get to the Green Solutions exposition to see what Mexican companies, in particular, were doing to move low carbon forward. Apart from a booth featuring the Zero Energy Low Cost Housing, other exhibits showed some solar, wind, and few electric vehicles. Not ground-‐breaking, but solid confirmation that Mexico has plans to continue its low carbon efforts. My second goal was IEA Day. This full morning of presentations from representatives of various divisions within the International Energy Agency showed me numerous examples of genuinely good work; work that it would be worthwhile for all of us in the field of energy efficiency to know about. Yes, the 700 page World Energy Outlook 2010 can be somewhat daunting (a Chinese edition is forthcoming), and the 450 Scenario describes carbon dioxide emissions at a level 30 percent higher than other parties already consider untenable. But IEA Executive Director’s solemn words, that “the investment bill to decarbonise the global energy mix has risen by USD 1 trillion since last year’s IEA estimate, for an identical environmental goal”, left no one doubting the urgency of effective action, not words.
Unlike Copenhagen, where evidence was everywhere that the local citizens were not only well aware of the COP, but also more than willing to express their opinions about it, any sign of public engagement in Cancun was hard to find. Not impossible, though. While on an early morning visit to a local market to catch some Mexican colour I came across a pair of posters from the “Against Climate Destruction Organisation” (excuse my probably flawed translation). You’ll see they are quite gruesome. The previous day I’d been given a talk about the fascinating but bloodthirsty Mayan civilisation that had flourished in the Cancun area – one feature of which was a ball game in which in some versions the captain of the winning team, not the losing team, had his head chopped off. It caused me to wonder if countries attempting to “win” next year’s hopefully final climate change negotiations might not find any such success equally fruitless. Much better, methinks, to strive for a genuine draw.