Reflections from COP18, Wednesday 28 November

In my 15 years as an environmental activist, Doha 2012 is my first COP experience. The day started by attending a plenary session on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The chair presented the CDM report for the last year, to which many countries actively provided a wide range of comments ideas about the Mechanism. Most countries were not satisfied with the methodologies, framework and achievements of the CDM, and suggested redefining its goals and objectives. Others emphasised the need to search for innovative funding methods.

Subsequently, I attended a side event on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” which was presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and chaired by Dr. Renate Christ. During the discussion, the panel put forward different examples from all over the world such as hurricanes in the USA, flash floods in Nairobi, Kenya, and drought in Africa. These presentations stimulated an animated discussion amongst the audience of over 200 people, which seemingly enhanced the participants’ knowledge on interrelationship between climate change and extreme events. 

I also experienced some interesting discussions today about equity and climate change. Another side event entitled “Closing the equity gap – Is equity enabler or barrier to increase ambition?” explored this relationship, with the discussion focusing on three key dimensions: limiting planetary warming, sharing efforts and disaggregating means (finance etc.). The discussion panel concluded that equity must be seen as an enabler for increasing the ambition of climate change efforts.

At this stage, however, these discussions remain exactly that, just discussions. The real question is whether the negotiators here at COP will take these messages on board and make the bold commitments so urgently needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. To quote Senator John Kerry, “Climate change is real. The science is compelling. And the longer we wait, the harder the problem will be to solve.”.


Reflections from COP18, Wednesday 28 November

While leaders – especially of developed countries – lack the needed sense of urgency, equity, and intergenerational justice, young people growing up in a world increasingly mired by the impacts of climate change have come together to ask COP18: what kind of a world do you leave for us to inherit?

In the first few days of negotiations, youth from different countries and organisations have stood up to tell stories of how climate change impacts us now, and how direly we need a binding, fair, and ambitious deal. The backdrop to the campaign has been the #ClimateLegacy map, a visual representation of recent local impacts of a rapidly warming world. The map demonstrates that no one is safe from climate change anymore. Each red dot on the map and pinned onto people’s chests in the conference halls represents an individual story of the climate legacy we already live.

Foreshadowing the Youth and Future Generations Day, in this morning’s Climate Legacy action, young people stressed the principles of international and intergenerational justice. Rajan Thapa from Nepal urged rich countries to take on greater responsibility, since countries like his, the least responsible for climate change, are the ones facing the most pressing impacts of melting glaciers and mounting conflicts.

Pin-Han Huang from Taiwan described the typhoon that hit her island nation home in 2009, illustrating how whole villages disappeared in mud. Jane Nurse from Grenada pointed out that climate impacts are often even deeper than the media coverage allows. Many island nations like hers have no capacity to recover from the recurring devastation of evermore frequent storms, which destroy the economic infrastructure for years to come, not to mention the human scars.

The afternoon’s side event on “Closing the Equity Gap” reinforced the call for justice as part of the climate legacy. Developed countries in particular must deliver what they owe their developing counterparts, our generation, and future generations. In Doha, leaders will choose between two paths to 2015: a climate legacy tarred by short-term profits, fossil fuels, and human loss, or, a climate legacy that delivers ecologically sound, economically just human prosperity for generations to come.

Reflections from COP18, Tuesday 27 November

After my first day at COP, I was looking forward to what lies next for me. Day two came with its own bowl of activities, expectations and excitements. It started with the regular schedule of the YOUNGO meeting where we had a discussion about minors not being able to attend COP and the steps we can do to alter the UN constituency. The barrier of age is very disappointing considering the passion that each of these young people holds and the work they have been doing in their own countries to forge a better future, free from the impact of climate change.

COP certainly does not lack work or activities. Being a young person working at grassroots level, I would say it is the prime ground of learning and interaction that can help enable better climate-related interventions in the place I come from. COP seems to hold everything for everyone.

Today was Gender Day and it was hard to choose one event over another for a subject which is very close to my heart. It was the first time Gender Day was being observed at COP. It was a very good initiative but how effective can a Gender Day be when gender issues are not even in the agenda this time.  Coming from a developing country that is prone to disasters, I have seen women be the direct victims of the effects of climate change. Women are farmers without ownership of lands; women have to walk distances just to have proper drinking water for their family. If gender issues are not an agenda here in COP then how can degradation of women can be solved at the grassroots level?

The best moment of the day was when I was in one of the gender-related side events listening to Farah Kabir, Liane Schalatek and other inspiring women. I heard of the concerns and the expectations women have for the COP.

Reflections from COP18, Tuesday 27 November

On day two of COP18 in Doha, things speeded up a little bit from day one. I was at the Qatar National Convention Center by 8:30am with the rest of my Adopt a Negotiator team (you’ll find us on the green couches near the spider around this time every morning), suitably sleep deprived and in need of a caffeine shot.

Today marked the first sessions of several of the seven tracks that are part of this negotiation process. The LCA (Long-Term Cooperative Action) session was of particular interest. Cracks started showing right from the word go.

There was talk about closing the track, as is scheduled in Doha, as well as calls to continue in fast track for at least the next two years. Historical responsibility and equity were discussed.

But the most heart wrenching part for me was when the Philippines said:

“Unfortunately, we do not have good news to share. Last year alone we lost 3000 people. We are surviving. Just surviving. And we are doing it completely on our own resources. The drowning needs to stop Mr.Chairman.”

They, like many others, called for strong financial action, and the filling of the Green Climate Fund, something the developing world – especially the most vulnerable countries in the developing world – desperately need.

Today was also Gender Day. It opened with a discussion with Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Mary Robinson and Alcinda Abreu. Ms.Abreu reinforced that:

“There is no sustainable development without incorporating gender into our plans.”

Meanwhile, the Fossil of the Day went to Turkey, the fourth largest investor in coal, with the second prize going to EU, who do not want to reduce their emissions for the next eight years until 2020, now that they have already met their pledged goals!

For more, see:

Tomorrow is Energy day, looking forward to more stories and fossils, and hopefully some progress!


Reflections from COP18, Monday 26 November

Jelena Kiselova, British Council Climate Champion

My first day at COP18 began at 8am with a UNFCCC Youth NGO Constituency (YOUNGO) meeting, where we discussed the message should be printed on YOUNGO T-shirt for the Young and Future Generations Day. The logo: “I am part of the solution – are you?’’ received the most votes and was selected. This message reflects the Youth position at this COP: at Doha, youth wants everyone  – including negotiators – to be part of the solution, not the problem. We need to tackle climate change together.

The same message was seen during the COP18 Opening Ceremony. Almost every delegate stressed the need for collective action by all countries in tackling climate change. However, Tariq Al-Olaimy of the Bahrain Arab Youth Climate Movement, the only person selected to represent YOUNGO at the Opening Ceremony, stated:

"Many government delegations provided statements that did not reflect the reality of their actions over the pre-sessionals or previous COPs. There is a disconnect when civil society statements vary greatly from government statements. It would be more constructive to hear more truthful depictions of where we stand at these sessions, even if honesty is harder to hear."

Youth was also very disappointed that YOUNGO were given only a minute to deliver their civil society statement; this is for a constituency which is supposed to represent over 1 billion people.

The best inspiration of the day was to sit side by side with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, in the afternoon youth meeting. She was brilliant, as usual, saying that even if youth cannot affect the COP negotiations directly, indirectly we are all affecting the spirit of the event. After the event I felt both inspired and energised to continue my mission of raising awareness and taking action to amplify the voices of youth on issues that affect all our lives.