Chris Huhne must stay in Cancun

Chris Huhne has been doing a brilliant job at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun this week; he should stay there and not come back for the tuition fees vote.

The UK’s Climate Secretary Chris Huhne has been doing a brilliant job at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun this week. Huhne has rapidly formulated good relationships with other key countries, doing so well in fact that he has been tasked by the Mexican Presidency of the talks to be the main fixer in resolving the main obstacle to progress there – namely the question of whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol, or at least to continue negotiations around Kyoto.

In Cancun, Japan in particular has been very strident in attempting to kill the Kyoto Protocol – currently the only existing legal framework for reducing emissions in the most industrialised countries. If Japan refuses to compromise on this issue, it could collapse the talks.

As today’s Independent explains:

“Mr Huhne has been asked by the Mexican organisers of the conference to try bridging the “Kyoto Protocol gap”, between those countries that insist they will never sign up to a new period of Kyoto, the current climate treaty (such as the Japanese, Russians and Canadians) and those who insist that without a Kyoto extension, there can be no new climate deal (such as the Bolivians, the Venezuelans, the Chinese and the African countries).

“The increasingly polarised dispute between rich and poor nations threatens the talks with the same impasse that led to the breakdown of the previous UN climate conference in Copenhagen last December.

“Mr Huhne, who is leading Britain’s delegation at Cancun, has been asked by the Mexicans to join with Brazil’s Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, in holding discussions with the countries that have taken entrenched positions on Kyoto – particularly the Japanese on the one side and the radical South Americans on the other. Their task is to find a compromise way forward.”

That’s why Chris Huhne has become one of the most important players in the negotiations – and why it’s so important that he doesn’t fly home for tomorrow’s vote on tuition fees.

It is usually diplomatic etiquette that under circumstances like this, the leader of the opposition agrees to pair up one of their MPs with the MP who is away. Pressure is mounting for Ed Miliband to do the statesman-like thing and agree to an arrangement like this in order that the UK’s key role in Cancun is not undermined.

However, there is also pressure on Cameron and Clegg not to call back Chris Huhne when it could have such a detrimental effect on the progress in Mexico towards a global deal. Whatever the solution – and whoever is at fault – the political gaming in Westminster must not undermine the very real possibility of progress towards a vital global climate deal this week.

Update 1820hrs


NUS president Aaron Porter has joined the debate over whether Chris Huhne should remain in Cancun (see screengrab above), tweeting:

“Chris Huhne should only bother coming back from Cancun to honour the promise he made voters & vote against higher fees.”


“Chris Huhne should stay at the important Cancun talks! Petty politics over this is outrageous.”

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