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Post-summit, Mexico sees itself as global player on climate change

As host to this year's UN climate talks, Mexico also holds the conference presidency – and the country is positioning itself as a key negotiator, one that can bridge the gap between rich and poor nations.

Felipe Calderon

Calderon wants Mexico to be at the forefront of climate action

For Mexican President Felipe Calderon it's an honor to host the UN climate conference. Yet that honor comes at a price: Providing security, logistics and organization for around 15,000 delegates takes a toll on resources.

There is no question as to whether the conference has been worth the effort, says Gustavo Ampugnani of Greenpeace Mexico.

"As a Mexican I am of course proud that it's my country that's hosting this conference - after all, it's about saving the global climate," he told Deutsche Welle. From a global perspective he said Mexico did a good job in taking a leading role in the struggle against climate change.

UN delegates

Some 15,000 delegates from around the world came to attend the Cancun talks

He added that, crucially, the summit also served to heighten awareness within Mexico itself about the impact of climate change.

"For us at Greenpeace, what matters is of course not only staging this conferece, but also the concrete actions back home here in Mexico," Ampugnani said, pointing out out the dependency on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

"We have to reduce our own emissions - and in that field, I'd say, Mexico still has a lot to do before the country can actually be proud of its climate policy."

Building bridges

Mexico has stepped up its climate protection efforts. With the conference in Cancun well underway, the government passed a law introducing emission targets, and taxes on emissions in the Mexico city area. The 20 million living there make up around 25 percent of the country's total population.

During the climate talks themselves, Mexico's efforts were exemplary.

"I think the conference here is very well organized - with dedication and professionalism. Mexico is indeed trying to build bridges," German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said in Cancun.

President Calderon's declared goal is achieving progress on the so-called Green Fund, set up to channel aid to countries suffering from the consequences of climate change. Calderon wants every country to contribute to the fund.

Mexico City

Around 25 percent of the country's population live in the capital Mexico City

The amount that each country would have to contribute would be linked to both the extent to which it contributes to climate change and to its economic wealth. A total of $100 billion (76 billion euros) is to go into the fund each year, starting in 2020. That, at least, is the plan according to the agreement reached at last year's climate change summit in Copenhagen.

But the climate fund has turned out to be a thorny issue. Negotiators at Cancun were supposed to work out the details, but it's precisely those details that are proving difficult, and Mexico is having a hard time trying get the delegates to agree to a compromise.

"Africa for instance contributes only two percent to the global CO2 emissions - but at the same time it's Africa that's the part of the world worst affected by the consequences of climate change," German Environment Minister Roettgen said.

"And the job is to get all of the 194 attending countries to agree on something so we can have a concrete result at the end of the day. This proves to be extremely complex and difficult. But I get a sense that Mexico is doing a good job - or at least as good a job as possible."

Will Cancun deliver?

Whether Mexico's presidency of this year's summit will in the end bring success is far from guaranteed. The summit officially wraps up on Friday and there have been few results so far. Often it is only in the last hours that marathon negotiations such as this one bear fruit.

Last year in Copenhagen, the talks went all through the night and into the early hours of the next day - although no deal even remotely close to what many had hoped for was ever reached.

A similar failure in Cancun would be a serious blow to the UN's climate policy, undermining international trust in its ability to bring about real change.

Author: Helle Jeppesen / ai
Editor: Sophie Tarr

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