This beach resort, swarming with tourists and sports utility vehicles and having opulent hotels and evident unsustainability, may not be the ideal place for a climate change conference but the real issues of climate change are too critical not to be debated anywhere.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference that gets under way here on Monday may not result in much in terms of emission reduction agreements. The main focus could be on forestry issues and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) plus where significant progress could be made.

The response to the conference is lukewarm but no less than 15,000 delegates are expected to attend the deliberations. REDD plus aims to reward the developing nations for protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests and it offers one of the cheapest options for cutting global greenhouse gases, according to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Principal climate change scientist at the CIFOR Louis Verchot said that among the key issues likely to be addressed was whether to include REDD plus as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

In India, the mechanism of REDD has not been implemented and there are several issues related to ownership of forests, forest rights and protection. The CIFOR said $ 4.5 billion was promised so far, much of it from Norway in bilateral agreements but money was not the sole consideration. A major breakthrough would be needed in the UNFCC negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government is committed to ensuring that participants' mobilisation and energy consumption during the conference results in the smallest environmental impact, in compliance with its obligations as host of the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) and the Sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6).

A statement says one of the main goals of the Mexican authorities is to ensure that a large amount of the energy used during the conference comes from renewable sources, hence, minimising as much as possible the release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.

In the framework of the Mexican-Italian environmental cooperation programme, the Mexican government is engaged in supplying energy through a system of photovoltaic cells with an estimated output of 130kW. The installation of a wind power generator with a 1.5-MW capacity will contribute to Cancun's electric output through an additional renewable source.

Regarding transportation, delegations of participating countries will be provided with hybrid vehicles for their transfers during the conference.

The Mexican government has implemented a special hotel assessment programme here, aimed at enhancing sustainable operation. Through the programme, Environmental Leadership for Competitiveness, implemented by SEMARNAT, hotels will set eco-efficiency projects to reduce the use of raw materials, energy and water during the conference. It is expected to avoid the consumption of approximately 2,00,000 m{+3} of water and the release of 4,000 tonnes of CO{+2} into the atmosphere.

Measuring emissions

Participants attending COP16/CMP6 will be able to access online and through the booths located at the conference venue a carbon footprint calculator to measure emissions associated to their air and ground transportation, lodging and meals. This calculation will allow the users to mitigate their respective emissions by opting for one of the projects listed in the voluntary Mexican market or those associated to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Indigenous communities' projects in the Mixe and Chinanteca regions of the Sierra Madre in Oaxaca, through the voluntary forest Mexican market are an example of the options available for carrying out this exercise.

Around 10,000 trees and bushes will be planted in Cancun. This will contribute both to carbon capture and sequestration, to further beautify the Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard, which is the city's main artery.

A residual waste management programme will operate during the conference. It is aimed at enhancing the processing of different waste materials and their incorporation to productive cycles avoiding their final disposal. The programme includes the placing of recycle bins in the official meeting areas of COP16/CMP6 events, other locations within Cancun.