Today marks the completion of the first week of COP18 as well as the conclusion of my participation here in Doha. Unfortunately the reality of life as a college student demands that I return to Smith College to finish my semester! I’d sincerely love to stay and contribute to youth involvement at COP18 for a second week. However I know that I am leaving this conference with very capable and passionate people to fill my absence.
Today is Youth and Future Generations Day at COP18! I began my day by heading to the YOUNGO office to help fellow youth make posters for an event later that day. After I contributed my fair share of poster-making creativity (or what little I have!) I headed over to one of the large plenary halls for an “Intergenerational Inquiry” with the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, and the current Ambassador from Grenada Dessima Williams. These three panelists, proponents of youth climate activism especially within the context of the UNFCCC, weighed in on the challenge youth will be facing for the next decades and how we can take action now to mobilize support and create a global movement. In particular, Christiana Figueres stressed the importance of utilizing social media, the most powerful communication tool, to create a revolution. “Climate change may be the most complex issue humanity has ever faced”, Christiana remarked, thus it is imperative that we communicate the urgency to act in a manner that is easily comprehensible.
Although my day began with a Finance working group meeting, I spent majority of my time interviewing youth members of AYCM (the Arab Youth Climate Movement). Initially encountering AYCM at the Conference of Youth, I have become increasingly impressed at the organization of this youth network as well as the energy and passion they have dedicated to climate activism. I am still in the process of conducting interviews, and I will eventually compile them into a synthesized profile. Stay tuned for this profile, as I will post it in a couple of days!
After I had finished conducting my interviews I attended “Fossil of the Day”, an action that CAN (the Climate Action Network) performs every evening at each COP. The “Fossil of the Day” award is a “prestigious” honor given to the top three countries that have been the least cooperative in the negotiations of the past day. Canada was awarded the first place and New Zealand the second place. And of course, the US wasn’t forgotten! In fact it won third place – partly due to the fact that President Obama just signed a bill exempting US airlines from the European aviation carbon-trading plan. All in all the action drew in quite a significant crowd and succeeded in highlighting the lack of climate leadership displayed by these three leading countries.
After “Fossil of the Day”, our delegation Skyped with two classes from SES who were eager to learn about our experiences at COP18. I could tell that the ASD and SES students had already gained substantial experience and knowledge of climate change and the UN process just within the first three days of the conference. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the conference brings for our delegation!
Day two of COP18 was quite a busy day for our delegation. Many of us spent countless hours attending side events run by institutions such as the United Nations Environmental Program, several Indigenous peoples organizations, and environmental activists groups such as Greenpeace. These side events provided critical understanding of not only the importance of trying to prevent the further process of climate change, but also adapting to climate change. These are the two key focal points of COP18: mitigation as well as adaptation to this hazardous global process.
Today was the official launch of the UNFCCC’s 18th annual Conference of Parties! By chance the School for Environmental Studies Education Foundation was drawn out of a lottery pool to receive a pass to attend the Opening Plenary. Cassie, one of the SES students, was chosen to attend the opening while I sat in a different plenary hall broadcasting the opening remarks by Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and the Conference President, Prime Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah. Overall the two leaders of the conference spoke with a sense of optimism and hope that the delegates could reach a consensus in the negotiations in order to avoid a 2° C increase in global temperature (the benchmark that the negotiators have set) and serious irreversible climate change. Cassie was kind enough to let me use her pass after she had her fill of the welcoming addresses - so I was able to attend a part of the plenary as well!
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