CANCUN, Mexico – Stuck in a blame game led by "big players" U.S. and China, the rest of the world should take on the climate crisis more aggressively "with or without them," says Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
That example — through such basic steps as switching out Mexico's light bulbs — will rally public opinion and bring political pressure on the biggest contributors to global warming, Calderon told The Associated Press.
"I do prefer to be very pragmatic. I don't want to spend 20 more years discussing about the procedure and about the purposes and blaming each other — developing countries blaming developed countries, and developed countries blaming developing-country big emitters, and that is a never-ending story," he said.
The Mexican leader met with the AP as the annual two-week negotiating conference of the 193-nation U.N. climate treaty opened in this Caribbean resort under a heavy shield of Mexican warships offshore and helmeted, assault rifle-armed police and soldiers onshore.
The diplomatic effort to impose stronger controls on global warming gases — carbon dioxide and other industrial, transport and agriculture gases — has been stymied by friction between the two biggest emitters, China and the United States. After a major disappointment last year at the Copenhagen climate summit, no one expects Cancun to break the deadlock and produce a far-reaching global accord. Delegates hope for progress on secondary issues, however.
The U.S. has long refused to join the rest of the industrialized world in the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 adjunct to the climate treaty that mandated modest emissions reductions by richer nations. The Americans complained it would hurt their economy and it exempted such emerging economies as China and India.
The Chinese, for their part, have resisted pressure from the U.S. and others in recent years to take on binding commitments — not to reduce emissions, but to limit the growth in emissions. They're still too poor to risk slowing down their economy, and the rich industrial nations bear historic responsibility for past emissions, the Chinese say.
"It is very important the behavior in this matter of the big players," Calderon told AP, mentioning the U.S. and China.
"If we don't get the commitment coming from them, is it necessary to wait 10 or five or another 20 years in order to start? I think we need to start with or without them, and to show with our own example the way to go," he said in the interview after opening the conference Monday.
Calderon pointed to Mexico's own plan to switch out tens of millions of incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
"We're going to save a lot of money because it's very expensive, this electricity," he said.
In the first four years of his six-year presidency, Calderon, 48, has grappled above all with a life-and-death struggle with Mexican drug cartels. In the Cancun interview, however, he turned his attention to an area he knows well, as a former executive of Mexico's oil and electric companies and former Mexican energy secretary.
He said he hopes for a "very serious outcome" from the Cancun conference — decisions to establish a "green fund" to disburse aid to poorer nations to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change; to make it cheaper for developing nations to obtain climate-friendly proprietary technology; and to finalize more elements of a complex plan to pay developing countries, including Mexico, for protecting their tropical forests.
One of the few key agreements at Copenhagen was for rich countries to funnel $30 billion over three years for "fast track" financing for poor countries needing quick help. Projects include coastal protection against seas rising rom warming; help for small farmers whose traditional crops are ruined by changing climate patterns; and aid to governments to plan for low-carbon growth.
The European Union said Tuesday it has mobilized euro2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) this year, and is on track to meet its pledge of euro7.2 billion over three years in short-term financing. Jonathan Pershing, chief U.S. negotiator, said Monday that Washington has allocated $1.7 billion for 2010.
Calderon is expected to take a personal hand next week in trying to resolve disputes over such secondary treaty issues, being debated while the world waits at least another year for an end to the gridlock on a new overall global accord to ward off the worst of climate change.
About 25 heads of government or state are expected to attend the final days of the conference, but neither President Barack Obama nor Chinese Premier Hu Jintao will be among them. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who last April led a developing world climate summit, will join the Cancun meetings Dec. 9, his country's delegation said.
U.N. experts say countries' current voluntary pledges on emissions cuts will not suffice to keep the temperature rise in check.
The last decade confirmed scientific predictions of 20 years ago that temperatures would rise and storms become more fierce, and those trends are likely to continue, Ghassam Asrar, chief of World Meteorological Organization's climate research center, said Tuesday.
The brutal heat waves that killed thousands of Europeans in 2003 and that choked Russia earlier this year will seem like average summers in the future as the Earth continues to warm, he said.