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The Center In Mexico: Cancun Climate Change Conference

World leaders who gathered in Cancún, Mexico, to address the global climate crisis in December 2010 met against an ominous, though still hopeful, backdrop. The year was shaping up to be one of the hottest on record. In Russia, heat and drought destroyed a fifth of the nation's wheat. Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century. And flooding in Pakistan displaced 15 million to 20 million people. Meanwhile, scientists maintained that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak within the next five to 10 years — and decline steeply thereafter — if the world is to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. The Center for Biological Diversity was in on the action at the Cancún conference to reinforce that necessity.

Unfortunately — and alarmingly — the talks fell far short of providing the concrete and immediate pollution reductions needed to address the growing climate crisis, as the Center’s press release analysis shows. Although, on the positive side, they were marked by a broad affirmation of support for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change process, the talks left us with a lot of work ahead to build a movement strong enough to push the world toward significant progress in the fight against catastrophic climate change. And we have much to do to push the United States, in particular, toward taking a leadership role rather than obstructing progress on the most important issue humanity has yet to face.

At the conference, staffers from the Center’s Climate Law Institute were among those in Cancún urging world leaders to take significant action on this unprecedented global crisis. The Center released our key points for the talks, The Closing Window for Action to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change, which urged leaders to dramatically decrease carbon dioxide emissions and set 2015 as the latest year for carbon emissions to peak before a steady decline. The Center and 350.org also rereleased a detailed report called Not Just a Number: Achieving a CO2 Concentration of 350 ppm or Less to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Impacts.

In Cancún, the Center organized a session with 350.org called “Science-based Long-term Targets: Why They're Needed, How They Can Be Achieved.” We talked to a multitude of people from around the globe at our exhibit space celebrating the United Nation’s International Year of Biodiversity, featuring our project “350 Reasons We Need to Get to 350: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming,” with a special focus on species found in Mexico. We took every opportunity to influence the negotiations and their outcomes — and sent back a number of video reports from the front lines of the struggle to curb global warming.


Photo of Cadillac Ranch © Jeanne Miller, courtesy of 350.org