Michael Wilks on the latest from Cancún

As we reach the middle of the second and final week of this COP meeting, positions are beginning to harden, and may well persist into the post-Cancún landscape. Ministers started arriving yesterday and were given a shot in the arm by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In spite of this, the main offenders are being identified as Japan, India and the US. Japan for holding out against an extension of its Kyoto commitments, the US for a curious mixture of detachment and bullying, and India for its position that it won’t be lectured to by the West, but failing to frame an alternative strategy that doesn’t condemn it to Western-style damage from unrestricted GHG growth.

Extension of Kyoto commitments are seen as a fall-back position, allowing a framework to continue beyond 2012. Russia and Canada have joined Japan in resisting an extension. China has softened its position on independent verification of its emission reductions, but was hoping for more strategic advantage than has been forthcomning to date.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other participants busily going from meeting to meeting here in the huge conference centre feel remote from what is going on at the Moon Palace Hotel some distance away. A good example of this is the almost total absence from current drafts of health as an issue. Contrast that with numerous meetings about the health risks, and inceasingly the co-benefits argument – held by NGOs, and increasingly attended by some health ministers. When the chance is taken to brief delegates, negotiators and politicians about the health dividend that is central to our campaigning, then realisation dawns that this is truly a new narrative that has attractions even for those who are inherently sceptical. I had the opportunity to have this conversation with the minister of health in Macedonia over lunch yesterday, with impressive results. I’ll write more about his country’s concerns tomorrow.

Michael Wilks is attending the Cancún meeting as part of a health professional and environmental group.