Undress to impress

Amusing news today – the UN has just issued a dress code for the Cancun climate summit.

It clarifies that delegates can be exempted from wearing jackets and ties so negotiations can take place 'in a more comfortable environment'.

It's a nod to the heat and humidity of the Mexican resort – and perhaps a tactical move to cool down the occasional negotiator who has a tendency to get a little hot under the collar.

Yet despite the new informal dress code, obstruction on progress by rich countries is guaranteed to get many negotiators, and many activists, a bit steamed up – and with good reason.

Friends of the Earth wants to see progress made in Cancun in three key areas. I'll be looking at these in a couple of posts from the talks.

Cutting emissions

Rich countries agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that they'd contributed most to causing climate change through pumping out greenhouse gases for hundreds of years.

They also agreed that, because of this, they should act first to tackle the problem.

That's why the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 – for the first time, nearly all rich countries, except the US, had legally-binding targets to cut their emissions – albeit very weak.

The first set of targets covered 2008 to 2012. Friends of the Earth wants rich countries to sign up to a second set of targets when the first expire.

And the US shouldn't be let off the hook, even with the likelihood of climate legislation there looking slim – we believe they should eventually cut their emissions by the same amount as everyone else.

Now for the science bit

The latest science is showing that rich countries need to cut their emissions by at least 40% by 2020.

And this must be without resorting to carbon offsetting – a sneaky trick which doesn't actually reduce emissions one bit.

With the UN's new guidelines, negotiators may well be dressing to impress when the talks open on Monday – but what will really impress is if rich countries commit to taking the action we need to protect the planet and its people. 

Henry Rummins is a communications and media officer at Friends of the Earth. He's at the climate talks in Cancun to report as part of the Friends of the Earth International delegation.