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t the beginning of the 21st Century,humanity confronts a criticalenvironmental challenge that threatensour economical development, naturalecosystems and efforts to achieve the MillenniumDevelopment Goals: climate change.For decades, mankind has caused great harm to theenvironment, our common home. By doing so, we haveput our civilisation at unprecedented risk. We havewitnessed the power of nature: our societies areexperiencing an increasing frequency of hurricanesand heavy rain, a rise in sea levels, devastating floods,high temperatures, less biodiversity, economic damageand the regrettable loss of life.The facts are right in front of us if we choose to look. Forinstance, during 2010 Pakistan has experiences itsworst flooding in 80 years. According to the UnitedNations, nearly 20 million people have beensignificantly affected, that is approximately thepopulation of New York State, and at least 1,100 peoplehave died and thousands more have lost everything theyowned. The monsoons affected nearly 160,000 squarekilometres -an area larger than England.Recently, Mexico has faced severe weather conditionsthat have caused much destruction. According topreliminary information, around 908 squarekilometres in southern Mexico were affected duringthis hurricane season, 40 people died and more than250,000 people have suffered severe propertydamage or total loss. The worst-hit were, as usual, thepoorest that are always the most vulnerable. We are onthe front lines of the battle against climate change and we know that must prepare ourselves better to avoid the worst effects of these increasinglycommon disasters.I am convinced that we can change the course ofevents. Climate change is a global challenge thatdemands a global response in order to preserve anadequate environment for the human race. We need anurgent political and technical response based on thelatest science. This is why Mexico has been participating so activelywith the international community to define andpromote the necessary agreements. From November29th to December the 10th we will host in Cancún the 16th Conference of the Parties from the United Nations Framework Convention on ClimateChange (COP16) and the Sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6). On the way to Cancún, we have worked with countries from allregions of the world to try to reach a successfuloutcome in terms of substance, commitment and aforward looking strategy.From our meetings and consultations, there seems tobe general agreement that the Cancún meeting shouldresult in a balanced package of decisions thatoperationalise key elements of the Bali Action Plan inthe areas of adaptation, mitigation, technology,finance and capacity building. There is also highpotential for agreement on Reductions of Emissionsfrom Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). At the COP16, we have the challenge of advancingtowards sustainable human development for everyoneon this planet; to realign our methods of productionand consumption and create a much greener globaleconomy and a much more prosperous one. I am confident that the Parties will work to reduce tothe minimum the gap between the scientific evidenceRight: Juan Rafael ElviraQuesada visiting the areaaffected during a recenthurricane season inMexicoA BALANCED PACKAGE FOR THE COP16018CANCUN FOCUSJUAN RAFAEL ELVIRA QUESADA, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, MEXICOA

CANCUN FOCUS019and the political response. I know it is possible, andabove all it is our responsibility.We need to be pragmatic, and pragmatism in this casedemands we be ambitious. The evidence shows weneed to do more and Cancún 2010 could mark thebeginning of a new era of agreements on climatechange. This is what our peoples expect. Mexico is doing its utmost to ensure that the meetingwill produce far-reaching agreements and concreteresults by providing clear and inclusive leadershipduring the discussions. Therefore I invite you all tokeep our ultimate goal in sight: the wellbeing of ourpeoples and the safeguarding of our planet must be ourpriorities. The elements for success are already on thetable, it is now up to all of us to collectively decide itsfinal shape and scope.I am convinced that our immediate response willdefine our future; to fail in this endeavor could meanthe greatest collective failure in human history. nABOUT THE AUTHORJuan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT in Spanish) in Mexico has heldimportant positions in the federal publicadministration, including Vice-Attorney for Industrial Inspection at the Federal Attorney for the Environmental Protection (PROFEPA inSpanish) and Vice-Minister of Promotion andEnvironmental Regulation at the SEMARNAT. The administration of Mr Juan Elvira stands out forboosting the system of "payment for environmentalservices" as a mechanism to promote conservation ofnatural resources in Mexico (work that has beenrecognised by the World Bank and placed Mexico as a leader among developing countries in this field).Recently, Mr Elvira has been distinguished with various public recognitions for his leadershipand actions, including the Medal for Integration"Simón Bolívar".