Monday, November 26 marked the opening of the Conference of Parties 18 (COP18). My day started off bright and early with a meeting with Youth NGOs (YOUNGO) to discuss and share our ideas and what work we would like to get done at this COP.
Me enjoying some traditional Qatari coffee in the QNCC
The official day of the COP started with the opening plenary. In her address during the opening plenary, Executive Secretary to the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, shared her hopes that “the Doha COP also presents a unique challenge – to look at both the present and the future under the Durban Platform. May I dare say that under your guidance, much of this can be accomplished before the high-level segment, allowing this COP to finish not on Saturday, not on Sunday – but actually make history by finishing on Friday!”
Christiana Figueres’ address at the opening plenary (as viewed from the overflow room)
To this I say “Bring it on!” Historically, negotiations continue through the breaks over the “weekend” and tend to not propel solutions any faster. How can we make succinct, impacting, binding and non-binding agreements that are fruitful for mitigating climate change, preventing global temperature rise of 2 degrees, and keeping our atmosphere under 350 ppm? We speak our minds. We don’t take no for an answer. We react to inaction.
On the very first day of the conference, we already had begun pressuring negotiators. An action called #ClimateLegacy staked out the front entrance that all negotiators pass through going into the conference center with youth from around the world sharing the impact that climate change has had on their lives. They asked negotiators, “what do you want to be your climate legacy?”
Sierra Student Coalition Youth Delegate Jahdiel showing negotiators the impact climate change has had on his life
In addition to the #Climate Legacy action, our very own SSC Delegate, Adriana, gave an intervention (small speech) to the opening plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), saying that, “countries continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidizing fossil fuels each year. SBSTA should ensure its reporting guidelines for biennial reports include guidance to report on the existence of and efforts to remove these. ”
SSC youth delegate, Adriana, addressing SBSTA.
Later in the afternoon, YOUNGO had a special informal meeting with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Questions asked of her included:
- How do we make the voices of youth who could not attend the COP heard by negotiators?
- In what ways can we push a gender balance within the UNFCCC?
- What advice would you give youth to make the most impact in their time at this year’s COP?
- How realistic will it be for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be passed and how can we make sure that it will be?
UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, talking with YOUNGO
After hearing Christiana speak a number of times today, I can happily tell you what I want to be when I grow up: Christiana Figueres.
Following and inspiring talk, myself and others from the SSC delegation headed to the Climate Action Network (CAN) meeting for non-governmental organizations. Now, this is a meeting that will teach you a lot. Within this meeting, there are briefings on all of the Subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC meetings and general talks about how the negotiations are going. CAN is a quirky group that awards “Fossil of the Day” to a country (or countries) who are underperforming during the negotiations and “Ray of the Day” to a country that is doing good work. The first day, CAN decided to give their “First ever ironic Ray” to the EU for:
“having already reached their pledged 2020 target almost 10 years ahead of time! They really are the fastest underachievers in the KP! But wait!? The EU has told us that they are not planning to increase their 2020 emissions pledge from the already achieved 20%. How outrageous! Is the EU really planning to go for the next 10 years without doing ANY further emissions reductions? EU you will need to quickly increase your target or the clouds will appear and it will start raining fossils on your negotiating table.”
Needless to say- I like CAN. I like CAN a lot.
That evening, we got to go over to the Sustainability EXPO for the opening party for the COP. It was a night of “mixed drinks” (which were really different types of juices mixed together since the public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar- you have to be within a hotel bar), small appetizers, and native desserts (which of course included many nut and date filled goodies). After sampling these trifles, I was ready for something of substance. I saw of tray of falafel. It took another 30 minutes of searching to find it, but when I did, each and every bite of falafel tasted of sweet, sweet victory. The EXPO is filled with many companies, universities, and booths from countries. Each particular exhibit contains information (in most cases, green washing), reading materials, and SWAG. SO. MUCH. SWAG. Tricks of the trade include schmoozing, faking interest in attending a university, and relating the organizations work to your own- or, so I observed. I stuck to the whole genuine interest thing, which proved to be less fruitful.
Outside of the bougie party (strings and opera singer, included), there was a great display of traditional Qatari dancing. It consisted of many men, each carrying a sword, swaying forwarding and backward and swinging their swords to the beat of a drum. There were two drummers and one man singing (or chanting, I couldn’t say properly which one).
Traditional Qatari dancing outside of the Sustainability EXPO COP opening party
At the end of this long, long night, we went back to our hotel to welcome our 14th and final delegate to arrive, Mallory. A very good closing to a long and eventful day, indeed.
Coming soon- details about GENDER DAY
For now, Aloha from Doha.