Bula to Bonn!

Today was the first day of COP23, filled with busses, walking around, new faces, new spaces, and lots of figuring things out. While it was the first day of the COP, it was my fourth day being in Germany. Last weekend and right when I arrived I attended the Conference of Youth (COY). There were more than 1,000 youth present representing 114 different countries. There were workshops given by youth leaders spearheading initiatives worldwide, sessions about the strategies we take to fight root causes of climate change and injustice, YOUNGO (the youth constituency) working groups, and the group I was part of that created the final output document. During the closing ceremony we got to hear from Patricia Espinoza, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Director, COP23 President Frank Bainimarama, and the mayor of Bonn, as well as a young delegate from the Pacific Climate Warriors. The COY acts as a space for youth to connect before COP, but also as a space to gather a youth perspective to be passed on to COP through the final output document. It also acts as a great way to mentally prepare for COP, or so I thought.

The truth is, I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the atmosphere and chaos of the official climate negotiations, and the way that everything seems to always be happening all at the same time. I attended the APA (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement) round table on further guidance relating to the mitigation section of the agreement, and it was interesting seeing how the parties interacted with each other and the facilitators of the round table.

The two main themes of COP23 with the Fijian presidency are Talanaoa and Bula. From what I have gathered, Talanoa is a cultural practice of conversation, listening, and sharing with a high focus on solidarity and solving issues through a community working together. Bula, means welcome in Fijia, but from what I have heard and the ways I have heard them use it, it’s more than just that. It’s the spirit of welcoming someone into your space and your way of life.

Throughout the two zones, I have seen spaces for Fijian perspectives and performances as well as the opening ceremony which included a tradition ritual from Fiji. I am intrigued to see how these two themes trickle down to the real negotiations. I’m interested in how the party delegates take them to heart with how they work together in the end and achieve the common goal they have all gathered here to accomplish.

Throughout COP23 so far there has been a clear emphasis on Small Island Developing Nations (SIDS), which I really appreciate because they are the ones feeling the effects of climate change in the biggest ways right now. However, I am curious if this focus is only because of the Fijian COP23 presidency. I hope this focus goes further than COP23 and can deeply work to decarbonize and decolonize the ways we think about climate action and the ways global entities take action in different ways all over the world. However, I do really appreciate the way that youth voices are being emphasized in the SIDS narrative. Almost all the perspective from SIDS that I have heard have been youth, and I really appreciate the way they’ve focused on those that are affected the most before anyone else.

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