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Cancun on the Ground: Getting Acclimated

Cancun on the GroundAfter almost 12 hours of traveling due to flight delays, my colleague and I completed our journey from San Francisco to Cancun, Mexico. We were greeted by a warm ocean breeze, friendly helpful locals, and banners for the COP16 UN Climate Change Conference decorating every inch of the city. We instantly knew we were in the right place.

Our studio is situated on the west end of the hotel zone, closer to the Cancunmesse and Moon Palace conference centers than the infamous discoteca nightlife. But, famished, we ventured toward the bright lights in the hopes of finding an authentic Mexican dinner. Despite humble requests to our cab driver to take us someplace "tranquilo," we found ourselves dropped off in the heart of Cancun among giant, warehouse-sized designer shops (Louis Vuitton, Chanel), American chain restaurants (Outback Steakhouse, Applebees), and gargantuan night clubs with bumping baselines audible from miles away. This was not the Mexico either of us had ever been to -- or imagined. In fact, it bore a greater resemblance to Las Vegas.

Fearing our search for authentic Mexican food would end at a Taco Bell, we asked a nearby club promoter for advice, and after some labored thought, he pointed us to our only option: a pricey, upscale restaurant complete with Mariachi band, white linens, and an indoor fountain. After dinner (which was delicious), we were saddened to see among the glitz and scantily clad club-goers, several child beggars, and mothers with infants in tow, selling trinkets to tourists. The stark contrast, though not so different from that of many large cities, hinted at an interesting parallel to the conference in town. I was instantly reminded of an article I read on the trip over here that described Cancun as the "suicide capital" of Mexico. Climate change is contributing to the migration of many people out of rural areas of Mexico where crops have become harder to manage and resources harder to gather. But, as people have moved into the city, the divide in urban areas between locals and tourists has led to a culture of extreme poverty, hopelessness, and depression.

As week one of the conference wrapped up, the divide between rich and poor, and inequalities within negotiations were also apparent in many ways. Talks appear to favor the rich, as developed countries have a much greater number of participating delegates and negotiators than developing countries, thus stacking the cards against poorer countries with fewer resources to attend meetings and interpret information.

 

 

Also, the Kyoto Protocol has become the subject of heated debate, as Japan, Russia, and Canada have all rejected a second commitment period under the agreement. This move has sparked objections from developing countries who feel major emitting countries should continue to be held accountable for the targets set under Kyoto.

The impacts of climate change, as we know, disproportionately affect the poor, who are more reliant on natural resources and less able to cope with environmental changes and natural disasters. And the impacts are growing. As was reported in talks this week, an estimated 1 million deaths a year by 2030 and $157 billion in damage will result from climate change. Also reported, was the likelihood that 2010 would rank among the three hottest years in recorded history, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
 
Speaking with a few locals during our first days here, we received mixed responses to the conference which has invaded the town. One cab driver didn't actually believe that climate change was happening, but more importantly he didn't appreciate the inflated security around Cancun which was making it hard for the locals to "party" -- and thus harder for him to run his business. Apparently, groups of machine gun-toting policemen are a deterrent for the normally hassle-free recreational drug use in Cancun's Party Central. We're looking forward to gaining further insight to the local views of the conference this week ... outside of Party Central.

 
 

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China's Green Future: Is It Enough?

As the UN Climate Change Conference in Tianjin comes to a close this week, the gridlock between the U.S. and China reached a fever pitch in the final negotiations before year-end talks in Cancun. While there has been a general consensus around the need for a "balanced package" (the conference catch phrase), the definition of this phrase varied between conference delegates. The U.S. wants a transparent deal that includes Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV), while China maintains that the U.S. and all developed nations must make binding commitments before it will join an international agreement. The two nations have emerged from talks as major players in the climate change impasse.

Despite U.S. criticism that China is not making serious commitments, hosting the current round of talks has given China a bigger platform to proclaim its impressive clean energy advancements. China has made tremendous progress in wind and solar energy, taking the lead on investment, use and production of renewable energy, and mobilizing to cut carbon intensity in half by 2020. The problem? China may prefer to make technological advancements and set emissions reduction targets on its own terms. China recognizes the opportunity of a green future, but doesn't necessarily feel the need to take on a leadership role in saving the climate.

China is a developing country, but it is also the world's greatest polluter. So while it stands to make the most progress, it also has the greatest responsibility. And so does the U.S. Touting global leadership status and producing the most emissions per capita also comes with great responsibility. According to Karl Burkart of the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA) and Tck Tck Tck, U.S. pledges pale in comparison to China's:

 

  • Per capita CO2 emissions 2008: U.S. 19 tons, China 5 tons
  • Pledged emissions reductions: U.S. 0.8 gigatons, China 2.5 gigatons (UNFCCC)
  • National gas standard:  U.S. 27 MPG, China 34 MPG
  • Investment in clean energy 2009: U.S. $19 billion, China $35 billion


During a Climate Action Network (CAN) press conference on Day 1 at Tianjin, a Chinese Greenpeace activist may have said it best when she asked the question, "What kind of role does China want to play in [raising] the international ambition in the international process? Does China want to be part of the driving force, or get a free ride? It's impossible that an elephant as big as China will get a free ride."

 

To learn more, watch daily reports from the UN Climate Change Conference in Tianjin and tune in for the remaining LIVE coverage from our partners at OneClimate.net.

 
 

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China's UN Climate Change Conference: Less Talk, More Action

Despite the recent slew of natural disasters and extreme weather plaguing various parts of the world, optimism about the impact of this winter's annual climate change conference is scarce. Set to take place in Cancun, Mexico this November 29 - December 10, 2010, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) is evoking eye-rolls and sighs over what's expected to be yet another failed attempt at securing a global treaty on combating climate change. This apprehension is a stark contrast to the passionate buzz surrounding last year’s talks in Copenhagen. The vigor with which many world leaders, organizations, and activists attended the uniquely accessible event in Denmark was truly inspiring, and could have instilled hope into the hearts of even the most skeptical of commentators -- if not for the disappointing outcome. Ultimately, only five nations, including the U.S. and China, had any real say in the document that emerged from Copenhagen, which left many unsatisfied with the resulting level of ambition and jurisdiction.

While the U.S. Congress was unable to pass legislation prior to last year's talks (which would have added much-needed clout to President Obama's resolve on combating climate change), the U.S. did pledge to help raise $100 billion in global climate aid for vulnerable countries, as part of the non-legally binding Copenhagen Accord. To date, however, little progress has been made towards raising these funds.

The Accord, described as flimsy and inadequate, did not elaborate on the “how”, so much as the “what”, particularly regarding the $100 billion pledge, and accountability for industrial nations setting limits on emissions to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Thus, the focus of this year's conference will likely be on financing: who will be responsible for what, and how funds will be raised and allocated.

But will the talks result in significant emissions cuts and an effective pay system to compensate low-emitting countries who are hit hardest by climate change? Or will they remain just that…more talks? It's time rich and high-emitting countries, particularly those who tout their leadership roles, walk the walk, too. Last year, an unprecedented number of world leaders came to the table, which proves the urgency of climate change has been acknowledged.  Perhaps now that business leaders are starting to direct the conversation towards the economic opportunities that climate change affords (a language those rich and high-emitting countries standing in the way can understand well), that urgency can finally translate into a binding agreement.

Or, perhaps China will save the day as they host their own summit in Tianjin this October. These final preparatory sessions leading up to the Cancun talks present a unique opportunity for China to step up as a leader in achieving a binding climate treaty. China is already the biggest global player in clean energy, but unfortunately, it’s also the largest carbon emitter. Tune in to see what happens, when Link TV brings you live web coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference this October 4 to 9 in Tianjin, China, at LinkTV.org/Tianjin.

 
 

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4REAL Documentary Series Airs on Link TV This Summer

4REAL is a fresh-faced documentary series with an urban feel that transports you across the globe, connecting with young leaders making a difference in their disadvantaged communities. Series host Sol Guy is joined by some of his celebrity friends--including Eva Mendes, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, K'naan and Joaquin Phoenix--as they learn about an area's culture and history, and volunteer much-needed services with locally-run humanitarian groups, ranging from the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to Carolina for Kibera in the Somali-populated slums of Nairobi.

4REAL: PeruFrom the City of God favela in bustling Rio de Janeiro to the remote Yawanawa tribe in the Amazon rainforest, the communities we see in 4REAL are challenged by poverty, hunger, disease, addiction, homelessness, and the effects of war. However, the strength and resilience of these people become apparent in the work done by their determined youth. These young visionaries have helped their communities achieve economic independence, have set up medical services and education, inspired and guided their children, and above all, have given their people pride and hope.

4REAL does a great job of familiarizing viewers with each community and the issues at hand through the eyes of the celebrity newcomers, and the stars are paired well with the communities they visit. Sunny SoCal native Cameron Diaz meets with medicine man Puma Singona and his Quechuan youth group Cusi Huayna ("Happy Youth") in the picturesque Andes, while rapper M.I.A.--who spent her early years in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civil War--works with child rights leader Kimmie Weeks to help Liberian schoolchildren, who are themselves war survivors.

Each episode is lighthearted and full of fun, keeping in the spirit of its youthful vibe and hip-hop soundtrack. But occasionally an interview with a local child or volunteer suddenly turns somber, reminding us of how difficult the circumstances truly are, and how much more work there is left to be done.

4REAL is now airing on Link TV, and the episodes are also available to watch online. Check out the 4REAL homepage for tips on how you can help and to learn more about the series. And right now, we're offering a 4REAL gift pack for a donation to Link TV--support the only channel bringing you unique international series like this one!

 
 

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Submissions NOW OPEN for the explore/HATCH Disaster Film Award!

explore/Hatch Disaster Film AwardCALLING ALL FILMMAKERS!

Our friends at explore.org have teamed up with HATCH to champion the selfless acts of others through a film competition at this year’s HATCHfest Bozeman.

 

The explore/HATCH award presented by explore.org will be given to a filmmaker who best tells the story of a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event. From a woman who adopted orphaned children after the tsunami to a captain and his crew that saved the 115 survivors of Deepwater Horizon, explore.org wants to see how you define heroism in the face of catastrophe while inspiring others.

 

explore.org is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, they create a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others. In line with explore’s mission, HATCH inspires service and makes a positive impact on people and the planet in a creative way through film, music, photography, journalism, fashion, architecture, design, technology and more.

 

Winner of the first explore/HATCH award presented by explore.org will receive an all-expense-paid trip to HATCHfest Bozeman September 22-25 and be presented with a Canon HD SLR camera package from explore.org’s founder and documentary filmmaker, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and HATCH. If you or someone you know has made a film highlighting a cause that inspires others to make a difference, submissions are now open!

 

Funding for the explore/HATCH award is made possible through the efforts of explore.org and the Annenberg Foundation.

 

Withoutabox Submission Guidelines:

 

  • Submit a short documentary that has been completed in the last 5 years
  • The short film will showcase a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event
  • Submission length for explore/HATCH award is 20 minutes or less
  • DVD submission must be labeled explore/HATCH award
  • Any accompanying paperwork and the outside of the envelope must be labeled explore/HATCH award
  • Deadline is August 25, 2010, no exceptions will be made
  • The final 5 nominees will be posted on explore.org for audience consideration
  • The explore/HATCH award panel will announce the winner September 1, 2010

 

Learn more OR submit now!

 
 

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