Monday 21 November 2016

Blog Post 11 – Final Thoughts

One of the Yukon Climate Change Youth Ambassador’s roles is to create a visual project on some aspect of COP to share with the public. This year, the project will consist of a video that attempts to explain what COP is, in the words of a few different people. I interviewed Jenny (an environmental law student from Vermont Law School), Larry (a negotiator with Team Canada who focuses on mitigation), Dr. James Ford (a geography professor at McGill University with an interest in adaptation and vulnerability to climate change), and Ambika (a Canadian engineering student at the University of Waterloo, interested in climate change in northern rural communities). I wanted to know from each of them what COP meant to them.

            The reason I choose to do this project was because COP is a lot of things to a lot of people. At the core, of course, are the negotiations: that is the foremost reason for gathering almost 200 countries together for two weeks. However, COP is also so much more than that. It is a place to learn, a place to share, a place to voice concerns, a place to celebrate triumphs, and a place to collaborate in ways otherwise not possible. As you can see, there are many reasons people come to COP.
            From Larry’s perspective, COP is all about countries coming together and finding common ground to agree on international climate action targets. Larry is a negotiator who represents Canada during the climate change negotiations at COP. For Larry, COP is a way for 194 Parties with different views to come together and, incredibly, agree on targets for climate change action. Larry sees negotiating at COP as a way to bring agreements to life. For example, COP21’s Paris Agreement now needs to be implemented, which is what COP22 started. COP allows negotiators to come together and try to understand each other’s views on climate issues, which then leads to negotiating what the best way forward is. COP is also a way for political leadership to help emphasize the importance of climate change action.

Talking to Larry

For Jenny, COP was an incredible opportunity to learn about environmental law at the international climate change negotiations level. It was also an opportunity to serve a bigger purpose, which I highlighted in Blog Post 8.

To University of Waterloo student Ambika, COP means three things: the experience, the networking, and the learning. The experience is about coming to a new country and really learning about that culture. The networking is about being able to meet a huge variety of people from all over the world, while sharing that common priority of what to do about a changing climate. The learning is all about using the opportunity of being present at COP to totally immerse yourself in the COP process and what role it plays in global climate action. But for Ambika, the most important thing about COP is that it helps her understand what her role on the climate action front might be, because it has shown her where the gaps and opportunities are for her to bridge her skills with what’s needed.

Interviewing Ambika, a student at the University of Waterloo

Finally, Dr. Ford, a researcher and professor at McGill University, comes to COP because it’s an opportunity to connect with people from around the globe. As an academic, Dr. Ford views COP as a great way to share his research and learn from others. He gets to meet people from all types of organizations and backgrounds, which helps his research reach a broader audience.

Interviewing Dr. Ford from McGill University

            COP22 was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’ve had to think long and hard about what it means to me because the past week can easily be described as “brain scramble”. In the end, I’ve decided that COP means three things to me: learning, cooperation, and energy.

COP is an amazing opportunity for the world to get together and learn from one another. There were thousands of information booths, pavilions, posters, displays, presentations, and side events. In the short four days I was at the conference, I went to about 15 side events and presentations, ranging in topic from carbon markets, the role of the private sector, climate resilience and adaption in indigenous communities, to post-election climate policy in the US. This conference is a central node of all information climate related, which makes it a very valuable learning opportunity. No matter what your interests are, there’s a side event for you!

            COP is also all about cooperation. Even though I’ve now seen it in action, I still can’t believe that almost 200 vastly different countries can sit down and agree on anything, but that is what COP is all about! It was amazing to see the negotiators from every Party work incredibly hard to come to an agreement, which involved compromises for many but also featured some “sticky points” – issues on which some countries were unwilling to compromise. I think we could all learn a lesson or two from COP about how to get along with other people who have different interests than your own!

            For me, COP is also about energy. The atmosphere at the site is hard to describe, but it’s one of hope, optimism, knowledge, and positivity. I think that having a space to build this positive energy is hugely important. I think COP is a great way to help spread this positive energy back to every country that attends, and thereby invigorate efforts by each country to work towards the common goal of climate action.

Hanging out in front of the massive negotiating hall (several times taller than this picture makes it seem!!)

My time at COP22 has come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. I will continue sharing my incredible experience and connecting with the amazing people I met, so that we can all collaborate on innovative, inclusive, effective climate action strategies. Seeing this international collaboration between a huge number of vastly different countries has given me hope for meaningful climate change action, and I am excited and very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

This brings my blogging to end, but as always, I welcome all questions and comments and will do my best to respond to them! I hope you have all enjoyed reading these posts and have even learned a thing or two! 

As a closing thought to all my readers, young and old, climate change is one of the biggest threats of this century and likely the centuries that will follow. Climate change is a monstrous beast of a problem, but that doesn’t mean that humankind won’t prevail and figure this out. In that light, I encourage you all to never give up and to keep fighting for what is right for our planet and for human life. 

Rebecca and I leaving the conference on our final day

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