Welcome to the Circus!

I’m in PARIS!!! I’ve been lucky enough to get a last minute accredited badge to enter the UN climate negotiations that officially kicked off on MONDAY.

I’d been planning on spending two weeks on the outside of negotiations (UKYCC only received 2 spots but other groups ended up with spare badges at the eleventh hour). It’s been a case of jumping in and improvising. Before I start posting my experiences in Paris, here’s a brief catch up.

SAMSUNG CSC

How I got to Paris and COP21:

  • I applied in March and attended a training/selection day in April.
  • We met up throughout the coming months for team training and planning weekends, in May (London), July (Yorkshire), October (Durham) and November (London again). A chance to get clued up on the UNFCCC (the UN climate change convention), YOUNGO (its official youth constituency) and how to engage in the negotiations.
  • In June, some of the delegation dove head-first into the bewildering world of the UNFCCC, attending the intersessional talks in Bonn, Germany.
  • Amidst acronyms, policy and planning, there have been energizers (Ninja being a group favorite), tea-breaks, picnics and discussions about dinosaurs.
  • After the horrific Paris attacks, we had to re-evaluate our plans slightly. They definitely changed things here, both in terms of mood and what we’re able to do (with the 29th November climate march cancelled along with other planned demonstrations).
  • COY! The Conference of Youth takes place a few days before the UN climate negotiations each December. For young people, by young people, it was packed with workshops, talks, stalls and energy.

Bonn, Germany (June): 

June Bonn negotiating sessions are a kind of training school for the bigger, more hectic COP sessions in December. A good introduction, if not a baptism of fire, I left with more questions than I arrived with.

Why am I really here? How can I be most effective and influence the negotiations? Can I influence them? How can YOUNGO (the youth constituency) be more effective, representative and inclusive? Am I here as me, as UKYCC, as a young person, or all of the above? What are my/YOUNGO’s/civil society’s strengths?

A woman I met had been attending the talks for 5 years, and admitted that the first few years she had little clue about what was going on! ‘Welcome to the Circus!’ Unsurprisingly but slightly unsettling, it turns out that most negotiators are in the same boat. NEGOTIATORS. Each focuses on one topic, such as Mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions), and most know next to nothing about others.

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Highlights and impressions include:

-Humans of UN climate talks (look it up on facebook! Taking photos has been a nice way to meet negotiators and other civil society participants)

-If Not Us Then Who side event on Sunday (music, talks and film screenings of indigenous struggles)

-I gave a last minute intervention (short speech) on behalf of YOUNGO (the youth constituency)  when we heard the UN might cut civil society participation- AAAAH! Basically made it up on the spot.

-Writing interventions for the closing sessions (a group of us all on one google doc, staying at the conference centre until late, finding out how difficult it is to agree and get things done and realizing how tough a job the negotiators have..)

-My ‘Speed it up!’ action (frustrated at the pace of the negotiations as they attempted to streamline the draft text), having taught the CUPS rhythm to a bunch of other YOUNGOs (thankfully not everyone chickened out at the last minute)

-A die-in on the last day (right outside the big plenary hall, to remind the negotiators that people’s lives are at stake)

-Article 6 (Education) session (being taken seriously and listened to, a refreshing change)

-I helped/tried to help translate for some Spanish-speaking youth (not sure how much use I was with technical terms I didn’t even understand..)

-Co-facilitated (aha oh dear) a ‘high-level youth briefing’ with SBI/SBSTA (two ) chairs (me to the chairs after questions had been asked ‘Right, if you could answer those questions, that would be great…’)

-Women in Leadership evening reception

-NGO party on Saturday (baha)

-Beer o’clock (YOUNGO met most evenings at a beer garden by the river)

 

WHAT HAPPENED IN JUNE BONN IN A NUTSHELL: Not much! ‘Business as usual’… As someone in a summary CAN (Climate Action Network) meeting said, ‘these people are called negotiators, but they don’t negotiate, they retain options for as long as possible…’

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