The Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action (Cartagena Dialogue) is an excellent example of how a progressive minority of countries can make a difference in the international arena. Now an established and influential coalition in the international climate change talks, the Cartagena Dialogue evolved out of the efforts of a small group of developed and developing countries with a shared national interest in securing ambitious global action on climate change.
Australia has played an active role in the development of the Cartagena Dialogue. During the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, Australia and the United Kingdom initiated small-room discussions around the potential for small to middle-sized powers, from across the development spectrum, to work together to secure real, timely and measurable action to reduce the threat posed by climate change.
It was envisaged that a small group could draw on the voices of compromise in the negotiations and empower the ‘middle ground’. As the divide between developed and developing countries represents one of the key obstacles to agreement in international climate change talks, the approach taken by the Cartagena Dialogue to combine the voices and interests of developed and developing countries is a major advance. The group draws its strength from this diversity.
Colombia hosted the first meeting of the group, in the coastal city of Cartagena de Indias in March 2010, and the Cartagena Dialogue was born. It now includes around 40 countries. It has met four times since its inception, expanding its membership and its geographic reach in the process.
Features of the group’s success have included the willingness of members to compromise and resist polarised positioning, and to back pragmatic prescriptions for action. The Cartagena Dialogue strongly advocates shared responsibility, promoting an approach that would see all countries reduce their carbon pollution, commensurate with their relative economic capacities.
The Cartagena Dialogue played an important role in the success of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010, identifying areas of convergence and advocating ambition across its diverse regional constituencies. It is gearing up to similarly influence outcomes at COP 17 in 2011.