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.

So This Is Jet Lag

I’ve always heard-tell of this thing “Jet Lag”. It almost seemed like a mythical creature growing up. Wouldn’t you sleep when it’s dark outside? How hard could it be to sleep through the night? Apparently, it’s a lot harder than I had anticipated.

After a long 36 hour trip and maybe about 15 hours worth of sleep over the course of 4 flights, I find myself wide awake in my hotel in Doha. There is strange, yet beautiful, music bouncing off the cement buildings surrounding me and eerily echoing through my window.

My long journey started at 3am US Central time. I flew from Austin to Houston to DC to Dubai to Doha. Along the way I have met other youth delegate from the U.S.- some from Earth in Brackets, some from SustainUS, and everyone else travelling with me is from my delegation with the SSC.

This being my first journey outside of the U.S., everything is new and exciting, a list of firsts- if you will. My first international flight! My first airplane meal! My first bag of Lay’s with printing in a different language! My first time walking on the soil of another country!

After our twelve and a half hour flight from Washington DC to Dubai (on which I made a lovely, and slightly too friendly, friend from Yemen whom had just presented at a conference in he said was called MESA), while de-planing my excitement was tangible. These were my first glimpses of the rest of the World! Out of the airport window I saw palm trees, wavy sand, beautiful architecture, and of course, the flare stacks from oil refineries. The signs around the airport in Dubai were all in Arabic, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful written languages in the World. What caught my attention beyond the attire of other passenger milling around the terminals and the strenuous security measures, was the Americanization of the airport food. Recognize this? Church’s Chicken is apparently for palatable if it’s “Texas Chicken”!

Texas in Dubai, Y’all.

After an embarrassing and confusing restroom experience for us ladies (porcelain and TP were nowhere to be found), we headed back to our gate. From Dubai, we had a one hour flight remaining to Doha. By the time we took off, it was dark outside once more. We flew over the Persian Gulf, spotting oil rigs and fishing vessels lights spread out amongst the dark waves. After a light snack consisting of Lay’s chips and a KitKat bar, we caught our first glimpses of Doha!

“Where’s Waldo?” of the Middle East= “Where’s the Refinery?”. Can you spot one?

Once we landed, we had to hop onto these interesting shuttle-bus people-movers and headed to immigration and customs. Excitement: I was getting a stamp in my brand new passport! Going through was a lot easier than I had expected. “Passport? Name? Look at camera. Done.”-  my customs agent. We proceeded (“we” being myself, two other SSC delegates, two SustainUS delegates, one Earth in Brackets delegate, and one Mexican youth delegate) to baggage claim and awaited our rides to our separate sleeping destinations.

Aloha, Doha!

Upon arrival to our hotel (after an hour and a half of miscommunication with our ride getting there), I saw three American men leaning on the outside wall. In the middle, was a tall blonde gentleman, my favorite cousin James, who is staying nearby with the military. As soon as I saw him I burst into tears. I couldn’t get out of the cab fast enough to give him the biggest hug imaginable.

Truly a “Happy” Thanksgiving ❤

After he helped me take my bags upstairs (which contained two presents for him: Bacon Salt and Texas-shaped bacon/ cheddar crackers- side note: bringing pork products into Qatari borders is against the law, hence the bacon flavors) we headed out to dinner. After walking down a vibrant street with many “Hair Saloons” all along the left side and various bike and furniture shops, we headed to a place called King Kabob which was in a small shopping center that seemed to be comprised primarily of Indian shops (e.g. Sari Emporium two door down). I’m quickly noticing that the majority of the people I am seeing in my part of town (not the richer portion of the city) is primarily comprised of Indian and other Southeast Asian folks. I read somewhere that the much of the population is comprised of immigrant labor from these areas- more on this as I do more research. For dinner, I had a fascinating malai kofta (potato dumplings) that was very different from what I am used to from the Indian places I’ve been to in the states. This malai kofta was swimming in a white gravy and contained both dried cranberries and cashews. It was fantastic, just very different.

Mmmm nom nom nom

After bidding my cousin farewell, I was back at my hotel where my friend and I discovered that you cannot unlock our hotel door from the inside without a key- and our key was out grocery shopping with two of our other friends. I spent about fifteen minutes in the lobby watching Arabic infomercials for the equivalent of a Swiffer until my friends returned. Their return was not only warmly felt owing to the fact that I could get into the room, but also because they bought NUTELLA! The 5 of us (our fourth friend arrived shortly after them) circled the Nutella and munched away until- COCKROACHES!!! We had read reviews saying that there were roached in this hotel, but I was hoping that something had been done about it. On the bright side- Doha roaches are approximately a quater of the size of Texas roaches.

So- here I am. Sitting on the arm of a chair in our chic living room (I just saw another roach), nomming on Nutella, unable to sleep. It’s currently 6:30 am in Doha and I have a big day ahead of me- yet, I can’t sleep. On the agenda for today: the Conference of Youth (COY) opening ceremony and sessions, buying a temporary cell phone, and maybe even checking out the Souq. Who knows- time will tell.

For now, Aloha from Doha.