Monday, November 29, 2010


After having seen the way in which Copenhagen played host to last years climate talks I was skeptical when I heard that Mexico was locating the talks this year in Cancun. Well, that is a misstatement, the talks are actually about 20 miles south of the city itself. Most of the participants, those representing governments, Non-governmental organizations (such as me) or Intergovernmental organizations are staying either in the "hotel zone" or downtown. The hotel zone is the barrier island that houses most of the big resorts that Cancun is known for. Downtown is where the more budget-minded travelers stay.

To make things more complicated, the conference is split up into two separate venues, one for the side-events such as seminars and forums sponsored by individual countries or non-governmental agencies and the other venue is where the actual negotiations and conference of party (COP) meetings will be held. In order to get to the negotiations, you have to catch a shuttle from wherever your hotel is located to the side-event venue, go through security, then take another shuttle to the negotiations venue and go through another round of security checks (which are similar to airport security without the full-body scans).

It is a logistical puzzle made all the more challenging because the only way to get around is either by car or bus along a single thread of highway running along the coast between the city of Cancun and these other venues. Mexico has arranged for a fleet of buses that will run between all these venues to get people where they need to be. Thus far, they have not handled it particularly well.

This morning I left the hotel thinking that the bus ride would be around 30 minutes down to the conference. The first trick was to catch a bus. After arriving last night I tried to find the busses to take me down to the conference to get registered and have a badge printed out. You can do nothing without one of these badges. Unfortunately for me I was unable to find the temporary bus stop they have set up last night even after asking a number of people in very poor spanish.

This morning I had one of the drivers from the hotel show me where the bus stop was so that I wouldn't get lost again. I never would have found it without him. The busses are all charters and are unmarked with anything that would indicate they have been hired for COP16. We were told that they have ten busses running these routes constantly but that may not be enough considering that there are thousands of people attending the conference and presumably, they are likely to want to get to and from the conference venues around the same time.

I finally boarded a bus that took two and a half hours to travel the 20 miles from Cancun city to the conference venue. I must have fallen asleep at some point because I woke to the sounds of a very angry representative of a small African nation next to me yelling very loudly at someone on his phone in French. Safe to say that no one counted on these trips taking 2.5 hours one way. Turns out, for me, the bus trip was 4 hours too short.

Because I was unable to get to the conference yesterday to get a badge I finally arrived at the Cancun Messe conference center only to find out that for today NGO representatives and Official Observers were not being allowed to register until 2pm. Back on the bus.

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