Today was my first day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties sixteen (COP16). As soon as I got here, I received some information and learned the layout of the conference. There are three main locations where the conference activities are taking place. The first is the Climate Village, which I have not yet visited. This area is open to anyone, and is targeted to the locals who are not involved with UNFCCC. The second place is the Moon Palace. This is where all of the major negotiations are taking place. Unfortunately, many of these negotiations are closed to the public, although many are displayed on screens throughout the conference buildings. The third location is Cancúnmesse, which is where I will be spending most of my time. This is where observers put up displays and booths. Talks on various climate change related talks take place at this location.
By the time I was able to get to the convention, it was already mid-afternoon. Upon arriving, my mom and I had to go through security, which was much like an airport security system. After going through, we headed to get our credentials. This was fairly painless, but was easier for my mom as she had previously received credentials last year at COP15 in Copenhagen. My mom and I are considered non-governmental observers (NGO) as are the other members of the Moravian College with which I am involved.
The first exhibit hall was made up primarily of booths run by observer organizations. The booths ranged from Ukraine to the World Health Organization, almost all of which had handouts to teach about the organization’s connection to the central issue of climate change. Since I had only a little time and since many of the booths are not completely set up yet, I only spent a little time at the booths, but learned a lot and met a few people along the way. The second part Cancunmesse is where countries have set up large displays or “centers” which highlight issues that affect their primary climate change-related issues. The largest was the United States, followed closely by Mexico. South Africa, which will be hosting COP17, also had a center encouraging participants of this year’s conference to attend next year’s.
From Cancunmesse, my mom and I headed north to downtown Cancun, a part rarely visited by tourists who primarily stay in Zona Hotelera. I had read an article about a climate prayer which was taking place in front of Palacio Munincipal, which was something that I wanted to visit. When we arrived, we watched as several actors acted and danced to music on the stage. This was followed by a speech by a guy promoting good actions toward the Earth. After that, a major bishop from Quintana Roo gave a wonderful prayer asking God to help us, the people fighting climate change, and to help the leaders negotiating plans to help the planet. Following are some quotes from the speech translated with the help of Father Mario Gonzalez:
Lord God, you created nature and the Earth. You then gave us the difficult challenge of protecting it.
Lord almighty, teach us what we should do and should not do.
God, give us the power to save the planet with the help of COP16 through the leaders who have gathered here in Cancun.
After the bishop, a local childrens' choir led a song which the audience clearly knew. After a few verses, everyone in the square was singing to God.
The children sing and release doves at Palacio Munincipal
Tomorrow, I will probably head back to Cancunmesse and possibly the Moon Palace. I will be attending several side events and paying more attention to the negotiations that are taking place nearby.