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Swept Away in Freak Downpour

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BY Lindsay VanPatten and Michael Cassidy
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

This entry adopts a European perspective on COP16, now taking place across the Atlantic from England and the Continent. One of the most important and contentious question addressed in the media is, "Will this be the end of the UN process?"  After the non-binding results of Copenhagen, the expectations for Cancun are few. As written in the U.K. paper The Guardian on Monday, "almost any progress will look like a result."

The focus has shifted from a global binding treaty to issues of adaptation, deforestation and funding programs for poor countries.  The Council of the European Union supports programs like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), with a goal of cutting tropical deforestation 50%, from current levels, by 2020.  Recently, an article in CAN Europe revealed that the European Parliament passed a vote agreeing that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced 30%, from 1990 levels, by 2020. This resolution will be addressed at COP 16.

Solar power advocates in Europe, such as the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) are taking action to raise awareness of the potential benefits solar energy can have on climate change.  A website, solarcop16, covers the solar industry's progress in Cancun.  

Europe has long hid behind the United States at climate negotiation gatherings, but Europeans are beginning to become fed up and will work on their own to find a climate change solution.  A second theme found in European news is the role of the U.S, or shall we say, the lack thereof.  According to the Irish Times Environment Editor, the biggest question of COP16 is, "Can they forge an agreement without the U.S.?" We cannot play down the influence the position of the U.S. has on this discussion and in light of the past year of weather disasters.  While hope remains that the U.S. steps up this year, Europe is going to move on with or without them.

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.