Representatives from nearly 200 nations are gathered for United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Cancun for the second week. Chat with Dr. Adrian Fernandez, head of National Institute of Ecology in Mexico, about how the talks about going and what hopes to be accomplished.

Dec 08, 2010

What is the role of youth activist groups in Cancun right now? Do they have any voice in the action? My daughter is there participating.

We need their continuous support, we need them to remind all countries that we have a high responsibility and no more time to talk, we must act now

Will there be any progress on deforestation?

as you know from COP 15 there were already important progress in the topic of reduced emissions from deforestation. we will continue the work in the future but we are hopeful that progress on the safeguards and environmental integrity of the REDD system will be part of a decision agreed here in Cancun

Where is the next conference and who determines where everyone meets every year/ two years?

The next Conference, COP17 will be in Durban, South Africa.  The COP changes "regions" of the world and within regions some countries volunteer to be host. At COP meetings countries confirm these proposals

Calderon seems very interested in climate change. How much of a role do you think Mexico will play on the world stage in fighting climate change?

He is indeed intereste, he is putting a lot of personal effort and political capital behind this. He has personaly met with a lot of ministers and delegates and he has participated in open discussions with the civil society reps

One of the problems with dealing with emissions is that we can either concentrate on what used to be - US as the major emitter - or what is - China as the major emitter. Are the participants looking at what will be done now, or on what happened way back when?

This is a very good point and it has been floating around COPs for long time.  The issue of historical emissions or cummulative atmospheric burden has been discussed extensively. It is complex, there is a lot of literature under the so called name: the brazil proposal.  It is difficult to estimate precisely the level of responsibility of each country but it is a fact that emissions accummulate in the atmosphere

Hello Doctor, I have lived in Chiapas, Mexico, for over six years and would like your view on litter in Mexico and how it affects the environment. Here in Tuxtla Gutierrez, people don't even think about throwing wrappers, plastic bottles and even dirty disposable diapers in the street or highway. This trash washes into the Rio Sabinal and finally into scenic Sumadero Canyon forming a trash blockade in the narrowest part. Why doesn't Mexico do something to educate its people about littering and the effects of it on the ecology. This is also a major issue with Mexican immigrants in the US who also litter annoying their American hosts. Chiapas rivals Costa Rica for natural beauty but beer bottles, tortillas and other trash are a blight on the countryside. Gracia!

The problem of solid or municipal waste is still big in Mexico and in many developing countries. This problem has a link to Climate Change in different ways.  As you know, poor handling of waste generates a lot of Methane, which is many times more powerful as greenhouse gas compared to CO2. But good management of the waste could offer sustainable ways to generate energy and help both local authorities and rural communities. There is a growing number of municipalities in Mex that begin to handle wast trough landfill sites with methane recovery, I hope tha Chiapas moves quickly in that direction

I often feel that the US gets too caught up in what makes us feel good (ie a Prius) vs what has the most bang for the buck for improving the GLOBAL warming problem. Since the problem is truly global, would we be better served at getting India etc to some semblance of respectability then making ourselves the global leader in green energy?

I think that in all countries we are going to need a strong cultural change and we are going to need it quickly.  Cultural and behavioral issues often determine the political space for decision makers. If people want SUVs , the governments will find difficult to persuade car manufacturers to bring better technologies.  Solving the CC problem will require that all of us work constructively and respectfully with countries such as China and India. I often find that media and public perceptions about what countries are really doing do not coincide with reality. Having said that, we also know that for political reasons some countries adopt official positions that are hard but domestically they are doing substantial efforts.

Can you talk a little about your role as head of the National Institute of Ecology in Mexico, and how your involved in climate change issues?

Our Institute, INE is an "in-house" think tank of the Ministry for the Environment. We offer technical and scientific support for the policy making process. We are about 350 people that share a strong commitment for the environment.  Within the CC agenda, INE is in charge of preparing Mex Greenhouse Inventories and the so call National Communications that we must submitt to the UN Framework Convention. We also work with all 32 states in Mex to help them to prepare State Wide CC Action Plans, which are fundamental to prepare our Adaptation efforts. As you know, Adaptation needs to be address with a much finer spatial resolution, we need to find our expected impacts of CC in each region.  More recently INE prepared detailed analyses on mitigation opportunities in Mexico, this work became the analytical support for our Copenhagen goal to deviate (reduce from business as usual) our emissions by 2020. We will achieve this if we get technological and  financial support as it is understood within the negotiation framework.  I would invite you to check our website   we have lots of info about climate change

It is my understanding that most scientists familiar with global warming agree that it does exist, even if they do not agree on the degree to which it is effecting and may continue to effect the environment. Yet, I continue to hear commentators and even political leaders state there is no agreement amongst the scientific community that global warming even exists. What, to your knowledge, is the level of scientific agreement as to whether global warming exists.

Ups, I just lost 2 paragraphs, here I retype again...  There is very solid evidence that CC is real and that it is caused by human activities. The false debate has been fueled by people that do not want the negotiations to succeed. Pseudo-scientists often paid by a few organizations linked to some high carbon industries keep producing information and media pieces to confuse people. It is unfortunate that even Congress people and representatives in some countries adopt this position.  I would invite everybody to read more about this, but be attentive on the sources. Some organizations are disguised as think tanks but they are just professional campaigners at the service of some high carbon and very influential industries that do not want any change and do not care about millions of people threatened by climate change.

Are you familiar with the law suit that electric companies are an environmental hazard that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear? Do you have any opinions on this subject?

I am not familiar, sorry.

I imagine that bringing all the people from different countries to meet at the conference causes emissions: flights, cars, etc. What do the countries do to prevent or reduce such impact? Otherwise, the send out a number of emissions in the process of meeting to solve this problem!!

You are absolutely right!! but I have good news for you.  This will be the first COP that is fully neutralized in terms of CO2 emissions. However it would be much better if we begin using more some available information technologies for people to communicate remotely instead of just keep jumping on planes (or cars) and produce large amounts of CO2

Are there representatives from the Peoples Republican of China at the conference and, if so, what have they been saying and what seems to be their attitudes?

As always there is an important chinese delegation here, I would say that they have been acting responsibly  They are participating in the negotiations constructively, we hope that they will find together with the USA delegation a compromise formulation for the controversial issue of Monitoring, Reporting and Verification as well as the International Consultation and Analysis, so that we can complete a balance package. I am hopeful.  Even Japan, that had a terrible attitude on the first two days now are behaving better, allowing for the negotiating atmosphere to be good to reach agreements

Do you think that the debate on the climate bill here in the US has anything to do with the negotiations in Cancun?

All countries know that the USA has very little room to manouver. Although they have promissed to meet their goals even without a Climate Bill, we know that it will be a difficult task , full of domestic challenges for the EPA. What we need from the USA here is flexibility and a bit of compromise so that we all can move forward. I am sure that they will do their best in the few days ahead of us in the negotiations.... wish us luck....

In This Chat
Dr. Adrian Fernandez
Adrian Fernandez-Bremauntz, MS, PhD, is president of the national Institute of Ecology for the government of Mexico. Appointed in 2005, Dr. Fernandez-Bremauntz has previously consulted to the World Health Organization and the U.N. Environment Program. Previously, he served as the general director of research on urban, regional and global pollution for the Mexican Ministry for the Environment and, prior to this, served as director for environmental management and information. In 1993 he received the Robert McNamara Award from the World Bank for his post-doctorate research at the Harvard School of Public Health.
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