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Day 1: The Bus, Mapping Forests, Early Optimism

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cop16_2.jpgBY Stuart Sexton
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities     

Well, the UNFCCC COP16 is officially underway! The first day began a bit slowly, with traffic jams induced by the security apparatus of Mexican president Felipe Calderon making his way to the conference, but all non-presidential attendees eventually made it. By early afternoon though, the conference was moving smoothly, delegates were bustling about, and presenters polished up their presentations. In a massive event such as COP16, an equivalent size venue is needed.
There are two parts to the conference: The side events are at the Cancunmesse and the main negotiations at the Moon Palace Hotel. Participants find their way between the two with a short 15-minute bus ride. 

For the side events on Monday, there were many interesting  topics to choose from. A particularily intriguing one was Japan's side event about their initiatives to work on REDD.  This program is officially called The United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. Japan is working intensively to map the entire world's forests to determine rates of deforestation and afforestation. Since deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions,  Japanese satellite-generated maps will be quite valuable for managing the world's forests in a sustainable way by determining which regions deserve primary attention.

Later, after the short bus ride to the Moon Palace Hotel, official opening statements and introductory negotiations were in progress. For a post-Copenhagen climate change conference, the feeling in the air was more favorable toward real results of climate change negotiations than was presented in the media leading up to the conference. Optimism may have been aided by the Caribbean breezes keeping the delegates cool and content. The early consensus was that the majority of nations urgently want a binding comprehensive agreement.  It may not happen in this year's negotiation, but lingering hopefulness from Copenhagen has found its way to Cancun. These next two weeks will likely be filled with excitement.  Keep posted for more details!

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.