Missed the Post-COP workshop? Here’s what happened.
Posted by pokhrelalina on January 15, 2010
A peek into Alina’s Journal =D
Kailash Hall saw an overwhelming lot of young climate activists last Friday. With a lot of new faces this time, the curiosity and the level of participation were unmatched. After everybody had their cup of hot tea/coffee basking in the sun outside, all of the 100 or so participants patiently waited while the organizers fixed little technicalities. By now, I, for one, have accepted that where there’s a projector involved, some tech hiccups occur sometimes, and so it was no biggie for me, although I did hear a few sneers here and there. Really guys, GROW UP.
Amita, the emcee for the event, yielded the floor to Pankaj Sir after welcoming us all. To use a hackneyed simile, Pankaj sir’s presentation on ‘Campaigns in Nepal in the build up to COP15’ was as fun for us to watch as it probably was for people who campaigned. From holding a Youth Cabinet meeting at ‘Basantapur Base Camp’ to the Ministers’ Cabinet Meeting at ‘Everest Base Camp’ –we did it all! Because we wanted to send delegations off to COP15 with the strongest possible message that people from every corner of Nepal –the cities, the lanes, the parks, the mountaintop, the heritage sites – is telling them to cut a deal that meets the science. The well received media coverage is representative of just that – we were successful in making our voices heard, out loud.
But it’s a pity that the Copenhagen Accord didn’t even ‘take note of’ the time and the energy that we – not just the Nepali youth, but youth from around the globe – spent putting pressure on policymakers and delegates in preparation for and during the conference itself. Yes, the Nepalese Youth Movement also reached the eyes and ears of people at Bella Center too and Avisekh Sir elaborated more on the actions that took place during the actual conference. Involvement in the various YOUNGO groups, the widely covered mountain action, the Press meet with Jairam Ramesh, NYCA’s side event, Summiteers’ Summit: we, indeed, made our presence felt. For which, I do think we should receive a pat on the back. We have already gained momentum, guys.
This was followed by Ugan sir’s very technical presentation (may have been for the new faces, I am assuming) on ‘Overview of COP15 and its outcome Copenhagen Accord’. I must say, it was quite detailed and structured, covering almost all the A-to-Z of COPs, it included everything starting from COP1 to COP15, AWG-KP and AWG-LCA, and the Pro’s and Con’s of Copenhagen Accord. If you want to know what exactly went about during the 17 years of snail –paced negotiations, you can just go through his 10 minutes long presentation, and you’ll know just about everything there is to know. So much for the 17 years.
Paying attention to, digesting and trying to self-analyze on the two elaborative presentations was quite stressful, which called for a good ol’ tea break. A random quote struck my mind which made me smile while I was drinking my coffee: “Coffee, chocolate, men: some things are just better rich”. I bet it’ll make all the women reading this smile, if not men. =D
The panel discussion followed after the tea break with the panellists giving us a clearer picture on where each of them stand (by which I mean, each of the stakeholders – government, NGO, INGO – stand). I will be honest here, although the panellists had a lot of insightful and interesting things to say, I always found myself eagerly waiting for Bhushan sir’s interventions, which never failed to make me smile. (Bhushan sir, if you’re reading this: I hope you know what an amazing person you are. Hehe. And if you’re not Bhushan sir, just ignore this parenthesis and continue reading). And before I forget, let me thank Mr.Uday R Sharma for providing us all with his honest judgement. With an infinite number of ties with the government and diplomats, it takes quite some gut to speak one’s mind out. And THANKS AN OCEAN for spelling it out for me that “2 degrees Celsius yaha tyaha, positive side bhanchan, kehi hoina tyo. Kehi bhayena Copenhagen ma. Copenhagen was a failure.” I was waiting to hear that from somebody. Really, I tried – a gazillion of times- to see a positive side to the accord, but I failed hopelessly. So, “same pinch” on that, Udaya sir; that makes the two of us who think Copenhagen accord is complete BS.
And now on the substance, I’ll pour it all out here: for the parts when I wanted to opine the most but never got a chance to. ( read: I REALLY DISLIKE panel discussions where only questions are entertained and opinions aren’t. I think the feeling is a little stronger than just dislike, by the way). There were instances when I just wished that the panellists wouldn’t answer such an ignorant question. And there were instances when I wanted to say, “Hey boy, Just let us think that you’re stupid instead of asking such a question and proving that you ARE.” Forgive me for using such harsh language, but believe me, some questions were equally painful to tolerate. And stupid. What I mean is, a little homework on the basics of what COP is and what happened at COP is expected on the part of the participants too, especially when you come to a post-COP workshop. Correct me if I am wrong.
One raised the question of how climate change hasn’t, so far, been linked to human rights. From where I stand, young man, almost all of the actions on the part of the youths have been revolving around just that one single message, that our “survival is not negotiable”, that we want “Climate Justice Now!” And needless to say, Human rights are the root of justice. Recognizing them is the foundation of all justice. And recognized, we have: climate change violates our right to water downstream from the Himalayas if the glaciers disappear, our right to food if the Sahara expands more and ruins more cropland, our right to national survival if entire island nations start drowning and as we have already seen and heard, our fundamental right to develop. What I basically mean is, 1. when we’re running out of time and 2. when everybody’s hungry, reiterating what the whole world already knows – that too making it sound like it’s an aspect completely unexplored – gets people like me annoyed at you.
And somebody just happened to ask, “Why do you go to COP? Hami COP kina janchou?” It made me go, “Are you really asking this question?” And that was when I wanted to answer this one. I’ll tell you why we went to COP. We went to COP to make sure that every political body entering those negotiations understands the mandate from people across the world to create a binding global treaty in line with the science. We went to COP because we want our voices to be heard when decisions about our future is being made. We went to COP because we need a global movement to respond to a global process, and THIS IS IMPORTANT regardless of what deal is made. We went to COP to use the opportunity to knit together this global movement that would be there to respond if Copenhagen failed to steer us toward safety. And that, we did. We’ve come out of COP15 with something much more profound, which many of us fail to understand: In no other field are youths now so tightly integrated in the international policy development process as in climate diplomacy. In 2005, nearly 10,000 participants travelled to Montreal for COP-11. Two years later, 12,000 showed up in Bali, and nearly 16,000 gathered in Poznan. And seeing 20,000 activists at COP15 this year, all in solidarity for our climate’s sake, I think, we made history. And youths weren’t just there to have a good time. Trust me when I say this because I was there in the Bella Center too. We also didn’t just limit ourselves to actions, either. Youths were, indeed, involved in tactful lobbying work in the halls. Our very own Adarsha sir consulted youths and experts for our opinions on the proposal of forming an Asian Youth Network as he knows that youths are already well-versed in the field. Some of us were involved in drafting the intervention texts too. And somebody actually has the nerve to ask ‘why we went to COP15?’ Face my fury now.
Some questions raised were quite valid too. Especially those which questioned the government’s role with regard to climate change. Again, what we need to remember is that as we prepare to put pressure on the negotiators, the negotiators are preparing to put pressure on their blocs and while some of us will be working with climate diplomacy in the conference rooms, others will be working with action, awareness work and protests. As different as our strategies are, our goal is the same. And about the question which was raised about the civil society and the government not being on the same boat, I think we are, We ARE on the same boat. I think it’s just the communication gap. And yes, if we received such constructive criticisms instead of negative ones, I bet that little rift will soon disappear too.
That’s about it. I am sorry if anybody takes any offence. My intentions weren’t to upset anybody, just to clarify some points and tell you all where I stand. We might not have had the best strategy for COP, or know all the climate science, but we’re doing the best to our capacity. It’s all a ‘learning by doing’ process. 10 years back, we weren’t where we are now. I keep telling this, get real everybody, we don’t live in a utopia so why is it that hard for people to understand that we’re not perfect? Why is it hard for people to accept that there are loopholes, places we need to work on? Why can’t they take all of this in a positive way? Constructive criticisms are always good, but the negative vibes make me sick.
And for me personally, the post-COP workshop was very informative and fruitful, I’d say, because it made me rethink about the whole climate change negotiation dynamics. I finally got the bigger picture: Reputable scientists and governments no longer question the existence of climate change and its consequences. Its effects around the globe are already too obvious. In the face of so much agreement, why is the leap from understanding to taking action so difficult? Is it because the countries have failed to pursue the mitigation of their CO2 output with enough vigour since Kyoto? Is it because climate change became apparent just when the countries of the global south saw their first glimmer of hope of escaping poverty? Negotiating positions changes until every country is left on its own, the rift between developed, emerging and developing countries widens and people still think World Bank can protect the climate. Where are we heading?
I also realized how climate negotiations have outgrown their role as pure environmental conferences. They have evolved into forums for determining who’s the mightiest. “The climate conference in Bonn is perhaps the last chance to agree on a climate protection plan,” noted Karsten Smid three weeks before the conference opened in 2001. Nothing happened then. “I am hopeful that a fair deal will come out of Copenhagen”, I said this to my friends when I left for COP15. Nothing happened in Copenhagen. So it will come as no surprise to me if all parties still fail to seal a deal at Mexico while the youths scream their lungs out for a fair deal. I just hope that we won’t upset our mother earth. Because nature’s way of taking revenge is dreadful, to say the least.