Before kicking off the UN climate negotiations in Cancun today, it was easy to get bogged down in the skepticism many express about what can be achieved. Certainly, the pace of progress has been frustratingly slow and the level of ambition has been, at times, dangerously low.
But negotiators are beginning to find a way out of the chaos of Copenhagen and have made real forward movement on issues that can lay the groundwork for a fair and binding global deal. One real glimmer of hope that can help make Cancun a success and propel us forward towards a global deal is finding agreement on a fair and accessible global climate fund.
Climate change is already devastating people's lives. Changing seasons are hitting harvests and making it tougher for the poorest people, especially women, to provide food for their families. Unpredictable and extreme weather is making it harder for poor people to protect their homes, families and livelihoods.
These challenges are also hitting home for American businesses whose supply chains face severe risks. At an event in Washington D.C. organized by Oxfam America just before Cancun, a number of business representatives expressed hope for global action on climate change to protect US economic interests.
"From failed crops to dwindling water reserves, climate change will pose a significant and direct business threat to the supply chains of major American companies," said Amy Leonard Senior Vice President for Product Development at Levi Strauss & Co. "We must invest now to address these climate change challenges not just because it's the right thing to do for communities, but also because it's critical to our long term business interests."
The establishment of a global climate fund will not only help protect at risk communities, it will also and create opportunities for American companies to partner with communities on the ground. This was a key message offered by Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change for the US delegation, at a press conference in Cancun today. Pershing said that US investments in a global climate fund can create jobs at home and internationally while reducing our carbon footprint. Companies large and small, from John Deere, to Royal Engineers, know that these types of investments in building resilience can help their bottom line while supporting poor communities to grow.
"We believe that strengthening resilience to climate change can be accomplished by working closely with customers in developing countries and elsewhere," said Taylor Davis, Senior Counsel for John Deere. "Technologies and solutions in agriculture, forestry, construction and turf all have a role to play in helping address the potential impact of climate change on local ecosystems, infrastructure and economies."
Agreement on a fund that delivers much needed cash to help the world's poorest people build resilience to the growing threats of a changing climate can begin to turn the corner on the challenges facing poor people around the world, and US businesses here at home. It is also an essential part of the balanced set of decisions needed for success in Cancun. It is a cornerstone for building the trust between rich and poor nations that will lead to a fair, ambitious and binding deal.
The UN process may be frustrating, but it is not broken - it can and must deliver. To make that possible American negotiators and leaders must hear from the public that this is something they care about.