Thursday 17 November 2016

Blog Post 8 – COP Day 2

          During my short two days in Marrakesh so far, I have met so many inspiring people and seen so many amazing exhibits and events.

Here’s a quick run down of a couple inspiring people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with.

I met Jenny on a bus at the airport in Frankfurt. An environmental law student from Vermont Law School, Jenny is at COP with her classmates to support the nation of Myanmar. Myanmar is a small country and doesn’t have the resources to send a large delegation to COP. To give you an idea, Canada has approximately 225 delegates (20 or so of whom are negotiators) here. Myanmar has 9 delegates. Jenny and her fellow students are here both to learn about environmental law at the international climate change negotiations level, but also to provide service to the country of Myanmar by attending meetings and taking notes on their behalf. Jenny is an incredibly interesting, inspiring person. She has had multiple colourful careers, and has now decided to work for sustainability as an environmental lawyer. Her key message was all about the duty to serve. This really resonated with me because I, in a similar way, feel a duty to work in an environment-related field because environmental sustainability is one of the most important issues for humankind.

I made a friend! The amazing Jenny. (Photo: J. Leech)
                   I had the opportunity both Monday and Tuesday to meet and hear Minister Catherine McKenna (Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change) speak. Despite her extremely busy schedule at COP running between bilaterals, meetings, and negotiations, Minister McKenna has made time to engage with Canadians attending COP. At the Canadian Delegation Briefing today (Tuesday), Minister McKenna spoke at length about the importance of engagement with all corners and demographics of the nation, and commended Canada’s representation at COP22 – 8 provinces, 3 territories, several municipalities, 15 indigenous leaders, over 40 businesses, youth and ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organizations) are present. COP is an incredible opportunity for all these people to come together to learn not only from each other, but also from others across the globe. I’ve never experienced an event where so many different people are able to come together and diplomatically engage with each other: strike deals, make commitments, and form partnerships! It’s been absolutely inspiring and empowering.

Daily Canadian stakeholder meeting, chaired by Minister McKenna (centre), communications manager Anita Mushitsi (left), and chief climate change negotiator for Canada Louise Metivier (right). 

            One super fascinating experience I had today was walking through the green zone. To give you some context, the extensive COP site is divided into two areas: blue zone and green zone. The blue zone is the location of all the negotiations, delegations, and official side events. To get into this zone, you need to be badged – as a party, as an observer, or as media. Until this morning, I had spent all my time in the blue zone. The green zone is free and open to the public, and houses “booths” (you really can’t call them that - they are large spaces! Let’s call them “pavilions”) where organizations, groups, and businesses showcase their work. I wish I had ventured over here earlier! I only had time for a quick walk through today, but hopefully later in the week I’ll be able to explore the green zone in more detail. On my quick gander this morning, several things caught my eye: the indigenous pavilion; a women and climate change pavilion; a Green Faith, and other religions, pavilion; and a whole hoard of companies that are taking the business opportunities climate change brings.

Green zone civil societies tent.

On the business side of things, there were innovations out the wazoo. Everything but the kitchen sink was showcased: massive solar energy farms, electric cars and trucks, wind and tidal power, biofuel technology (turning plastic into fuel), water-conserving irrigation systems, more garbage art, sustainable urban development models, and too many more business models to count.

Green Zone business area.

I don’t often consider the business side of climate change, but COP has helped me realize that the private sector plays a big role in the fight against climate change. The world we live in is driven by market forces, and therefore business can have a big impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the risks climate change poses to them, and although they may not label it as such, they’re adapting to climate change by investing in green technologies, reducing their emissions, relocating to lower-risk areas, and reducing water and electricity usage. I’ve included a couple of resources at the bottom of this post if you would like to learn more about the fascinating private sector aspect of climate change action!

More Green Zone. SO MANY BOOTHS and things to see!!!

I’m really looking forward to spending the rest of the week learning more about initiatives from the private sector, as well as from government and NGOs! For now, enjoy this picture of police officers patrolling the perimeter of the conference site on massive Friesian horses complete with silver reflective paint on their hooves.

Police on horseback patrolling perimeter of event site.

Private Sector resources:
Report on private sector adaptation to climate change


  1. Do you have any insider info. on what USA plans to do in regard to the Paris climate agreement?

    1. Hi, thanks for your interest! The short answer is no. The long answer, based on what I've heard from several panel discussions and side events over the past few days, is that 1) US negotiators at COP22 are still working under the Obama administration and are moving forward as such, so the Marrakesh COP negotiations (which are working to implement the Paris Agreement) are not affected by the recent election; 2) According to speakers at a “Post-Election: The Outlook for US Climate Policy” session we attended on Wednesday, the feeling in the US is that the incoming president-elect has been all over the map; it's important to remember that campaign rhetoric and actual policy are very different things, so really, everyone is in the same boats to find out what the future holds. The panelists felt hopeful that the new administration will see the business and leadership opportunities climate action brings. Alternatively, as I talk about in Blog Post 6, even if US leadership diminishes at the federal level, the sub-national governments will likely be able to continue their progress on the climate change front, even if it's not directly under the Paris Agreement.

    2. Thanks for the response :)

    3. Thanks for the response :)