From One Oil State to Another.

Here I sit, right where I began in Texas. My journey from one oil state to another has shaped the way I see the world.

Right now, I can say that I’m experiencing some slight reverse culture shock. Why are women showing so much skin when it’s this cold outside? I don’t hear car horns blaring at all hours of the day or the prayer songs from a dozen mosques playing 7 times a day (it’s eerily quiet at night when I try to sleep). There are Christmas decorations everywhere and pictures of the Emir are nowhere to be seen (I don’t think most people in Texas know that an Emir is, even.)

After not having driven my car for over a month, it’s odd to have to freedom to drive myself around once again. There are traffic lights, stop signs, and street names. Doha’s traffic circles, nameless streets, and camel-mounted police seem so long ago, and yet it was only a few days ago.

Jet lag has taken it’s toll again, but this time I am in my own bed surrounded by the comfort of my loved ones. Overall, COP made me think quite a bit about my privilege. I may not be able to enter negotiations with a pink badge, but by meeting with my negotiators I am able to influence not only the happenings within my own country- but within others as well. As a U.S. citizen, my voice directly impacts the climate because of my country’s wrong-doings. I think that I, as well as everyone else in my country, should take away from this COP that we are working on a strict timeline- Climate change will not spare island nations while we discuss the proper adverb in one of many treaties. We need to ACT and we need to ACT NOW.

What could the future look like if everyone got involved? We need to REALIZE that the time for action is not when we start to really feel the impacts of climate change (I would argue that we’ve already felt it enough).

That We Need Climate Action Now!

That We Need Climate Action Now!

Until next time: Aloha, Doha.

Let the COP Begin!!!

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.

New Faces & New Places: COY8 Day 1

It all started around 4am this morning. In Doha, it is November 23. I woke up around 4am Arabic Standard Time, otherwise known as 7pm Central Standard Time. I’ve heard it was because of this weird thing “Jet Lag” that people keep mentioning. Hm.

Anyway- after a lovely productive morning of blogging and stuffing my face for three hours, I was able to successfully start the day! Myself and the four others here for COY from my delegation started heading out to find A. Phones B. the COY venue.

We started to walk down our busy street, stopped by a marketplace to get a bottle of water (I know, SEAKers, I know), and continued on our ventured past the numerous furniture stores to find a main street to hail a taxi.

As luck would have it, as we approached the main road, we saw signs for the COP18 bus loading stop. We might as well just check it out and make sure that we know where we’re going, right? So, we headed over the bus and saw a a large group of youth and asked where the bus was headed. The Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC)? PERFECT! We hopped on. We didn’t know whether or not we were supposed to be on it, but after a go-around numbering off we felt pretty at home on our bus. It turns out that we ended up on the same bus as Arabic Youth Climate Movement (AYCM).

SSC U.S. Youth Delegates (from left to right: Jahdiel, Jessica, Adriana, Heather) on the COP18 bus to the QNCC.

We ended up getting to the QNCC and being told that our bus would not take us to the COY venue which was not taking place at the same location as the negotiations. We, all twenty-something of us, ended up crossing crazy Qatar traffic and walking through two construction zones only to cram into a smaller bus (imagine a VW Bus from the 60s) with twenty of us, zooming through the campus of the Qatar Foundation’s Education City to our final destination: the Student Center.

The outside of the Qatar Foundation Student Center.

Having planned on eating when we purchased our phones, with our stomachs rumbling, we realized that there was not anywhere to eat around the Student Center nor transportation that could be easily hailed. So, what did we do? We explored the building. We found wonderful water fill stations and steadily growing thirstiest from our treck to the Student Center it was a welcome discovery.

Water fill stations made in Keene, New Hampshire! (One of the more positive U.S. exports here… Papa John’s in the Student Center dining hall?)

The architecture in the building is GORGEOUS! The walls are made of polished stone. There is a central elevated floor couch square (great for conversing in a relaxed setting). My favorite part of the Student Center is the sculpture garden.

After two hours of wandering around, checking e-mails, working on blogs (cough, cough), and making new friends (from the UK) it was time to register! COY8 had officially begun. Our first order of business was getting to know each other. With 100+  youth from over 30 different countries, we started to mill around in a circle and when the music stopped we introduced ourselves. What was the song they played, you ask? A song that anyone with internet would know…

Next on the agenda? An anti-oppression(AO) training. For most of the youth in the room, this was their first experience with AO and people seemed to feel empowered once they realized that we share identities that help us to relate to one another that are not easily visible. Following AO was a presentation from the Arabic Youth Climate Movement. They only started 11 weeks ago and already have participation in 22 out of 24 Arab countries.

Arabic Youth Climate Movement Presentation.

Following the AYCM, two lovely ladies from the Netherlands presented their initiative. Their idea? Make negotiators accountable through the frame of “being the solution”. Some negotiators will be put on the list of polluters, while others will be put on the list of the “soluters”.

Be the Solution!

After a few more presentations we had a “Keynote” from Bill McKibbon. He sent us a pre-recorded message telling us about his “Do the Math” tour and inviting us to join him at the Global Power Shift that will be in Istanbul next June.

Bill McKibbon’s face on a screen.

That was the end of COY day 1. Day 2- coming soon!

More adventures to come. For now, Aloha from Doha.