By Megan Van Buskirk, WAGGGS Youth Delegate from Canada
The Cancunmesse, the Exhibition Area of COP 16 , is not a very sustainable location for the annual climate change conference. This is due to a variety of reasons. Because it’s almost 30°C outside, the air conditioning is on very high. This alone is creating a huge carbon footprint. To make matters worse, the doors to the building are wide open all day. It’s perfectly okay to leave a few windows open in order to circulate air, but the doors to this building are immense; they are larger than garage doors. In addition to this matter of poor air circulation, the food court offers bottled water and food on plastic plates. While the water bottles can be recycled, many are simply trashed (National Geographic  states that only one out of six people bother to recycle their bottles), which leaves massive amounts of plastic bottles simply lying in landfills. The plastic plates are a whole other story. Those plates cannot be recycled, nor will they decompose in the relatively near future.
The solutions are simple. Bottled water should not be offered at an event that is advocating a more sustainable future even though the reasoning behind it is obviously economic (nor should the members of non-governmental organizations and inter-governmental organizations be purchasing the bottled water). The plastic plates could be replaced with paper plates made from already recycled materials or materials that are highly decomposable such as corn. Better yet, delegates could be required to bring their own reusable dishes. It’s incredibly important for people around the world to begin thinking about implementing and participating in better waste management. Landfills contribute to a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no better place to begin this lifestyle change than at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) !
While these unsustainable issues are unfortunate, the Cancunmesse does provide a fairly comprehensive recycling/composting facility in a variety of locations (which can be seen in the photograph). Many of the appliances present in the Cancunmesse are also energy efficient. Specifically, the drink coolers clearly state that they use 40% less energy than regular coolers. These signs also indicate that you should leave the cooler closed until you know what you want. As a Girl Guide Leader, I understand the importance of small environmental gestures such as leaving the fridge door closed. Not only is it incredibly easy to do, it’s also something that youth (in particular, those younger than 8) understand.
Because Mexico is hosting COP 16, Mexican society and the Mexican government are beginning to think more about climate change and how their country is affected by it. The hosting of the UNFCCC is raising a lot of awareness in a country not as environmentally aware, which is a very positive thing. On top of hosting COP 16, Cancun officially inaugurated a wind turbine two days ago, which generates 1.5 MW of clean energy to the city’s residents. Good work, Mexico!