Cancún climate change summit: UK government gets cosy with corporations

cancun-climate-change-sum-006John Vidal, Wednesday 1 December 2010 11.50 GMT


The Copenhagen climate talks were a nightmare, with thousands of folk locked out of the conference halls in the snow. Cancún is shaping up just as badly. Here the problem is intense heat and huge distances.


The main conference centre is at the mighty Moon Palace resort, which is 35km away from most hotels and actually comprises three separate monstrous complexes. To get to the Moon, people must take off in a bus, travel 40km, go through a security check, and then take another bus a further 10km. When on the Moon, it is nearly a mile between the press centre and the hall where the press conferences take place, and a further mile or so between there and where government delegations hang out.


Add to this intermittent internet access, one-hour traffic jams, a boiling sun and freezing aircon, and you have all the elements of a PR disaster with delegates despairing and lost journos rushing around. Still, the British government has done well for itself. Delegates have a very nice flat on the beach, right next door to the US delegation. Name of the place? The Tequila building.


But UK diplomats are not just sitting in the warm sunshine, listening to the surf and sipping tequila sunrises. No sir. Our government has invited an unknown number of green businesses to Cancún, promising access to energy secretary Chris Huhne, and other “high-level British government representatives”, to both Mexican and British senior level officials, business owners and politicians. Participation is heavily subsidised by the British government, including subsidised accommodation.


The World Development Movement and Carbon Trade Watch are furious. “For our government to blatantly sponsor this is crass, damaging to our international credibility in climate negotiations and [shows] that the government has corporate interests, not a just deal, at heart,” says Kate Blagojevic.


With no Als or Arnies in Cancun, the place is so far a personality-free zone. When asked who of any international note was coming to the conference, the Mexican government strove to find answers. “We have top people in the scientific and entrepreneurial field”, blustered one foreign ministry official. “There will be world figures in electronics and telecoms”. Yes, but who is top of the bill, the man most likely to make our hearts jump? “Er, we have Lord Stern,” he said.


Still, there are now officially 25 world leaders for the Mexican navy and army – deployed here in force – to protect. The latest countries expected to send their leaders are South Africa, Norway and Switzerland.

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