Jamie Henn from 350.org stated in an interview on Tuesday with OneClimate.net that he believes there are two difference strategies by which one could approach the UNFCCC climate talks in Cancun and other Conferences of the Parties (COPs). He says the first and most prevalent strategy is to try and make small steps of progress each year towards building a larger treaty. The other and more important strategy, in Henn's opinion, is to use the COPs as opportunities to create "outrage" on the lack of progress that are made at these negotiations by key countries who aren't "stepping up to the plate."
Today, on the final day of formal negotiations of COP16, Greenpeace and TckTckTck, along with volunteers from several other NGOs, showed their support for the latter strategy by carrying out an extravagant stunt on the beach outside the Crown Paradise Club resort in Cancun. Well over a hundred people showed up to participate and cover the event, which involved creating a bird's eye image (using the help of renowned human banner aerial artist John Quigley) of climate negotiators being rescued from the sea by a giant inflated life ring.
The stunt venue was a nice departure from the cold, civilized rooms of the Cancunmesse and Moon Palace, and quite possibly the first time many of the hard working attendees had set foot on the beach during their time in Cancun.
Dozens of barefoot volunteers were given suits and business attire to put on for their roles as negotiators, and then were marched out to sea to start treading water. The remaining participants wearing green and blue shirts represented the civil society and used their bodies to spell out the word "HOPE?" on the sand. Then, the civil society leaped up to drag an enormous orange life ring (15 meters in diameter) into the water where the negotiators were floundering and simulating drowning. Fortunately, no one actually drowned (though their acting was very convincing!), because the civil society came to the rescue and pulled all of the flailing negotiators onto the ring and back to shore.
The symbolism of the event was very clear: Negotiators aren't making sufficient strides towards effectively mitigating green house gases and helping vulnerable communities who are already being impacted by climate change. Today is their last chance at this COP to make crucial compromises and commitments, and the civil society is here to help them do it.
Speaking after the stunt with some of the sandy, dripping wet participants, the tone of reactions was one of hope in these final hours. Local NGOs and folks from all over the world had come to the beach to join together and send a clear message to negotiators who once again hold the fate of the world in their hands. The act was not subtle, or forgiving, but it showed the great responsibility of COP16 participants to come to an agreement, and the urgency to do so. As talks wrap up today, we will find out if this outrage was heard.