The greater theme of this COP as I have seen through the Talanoa Dialogue, the way COP talks about “one conference, two zones” (referencing the two zones of civil society and official negotiations that exist here in Bonn), and through the Open Dialogue with youth, is accessibility.
This, however, is not being carried out. With my Bula Zone (official negotiation area) pass, I have had the honor of attending many official, informal dialogues and listening to how the UN negotiators interact with each other and the policies they are trying to put into place. But, when I am there it’s hard to understand what the acronyms – if not statements – of countries mean on a grassroots level and how they will affect my communities and life on a day to day basis.
After hearing from the Canadian youth delegation, YOUNGO, indigenous communities, and youth from Engajo Mundo about their Amazon and rainforest action today, I can say that youth and indigenous communities have their things figured out. However, they are not represented in the UNFCCC space. They do not get the visibility or acknowledgement that they deserve. I think the biggest thing that I have gathered from this system and this process is that it was created for justice and for the future. Yet, the way in which it was created and the system that perpetuates it is not necessarily conducive to the time-sensitive action that is needed, even though it may be internationally supported.
For the first time in a long time, I have made peace with the United States’ role in the global climate movement, thanks to the supposed $15 billion that Michael Bloomberg put into proving that the opinions of our 45th president doesn’t reflect the U.S. I think in many ways I really resonate with the values of the U.S. People’s Delegation. Thanks to lots of work by folks like Thanu Yakupitiyage and many others, the U.S. is able to show a unified and contrasting opinion to that of our government. As much as I’d like to think that the international community doesn’t actually believe that what our government tells the world is what we think, more and more I am beginning to see the effects – in ways I could have never imagined.
Through interactions with the international community here in Bonn, I have discovered that what the international community hears about us does truly affect the way they think about our opinions. I spoke with a number of youth from around the world, thanks to creating connections with them at the 13th Conference of Youth (COY), and many international stakeholders that I have connected with here. Most of them are surprised to hear the fact that I don’t necessarily agree with the actions our government is taking (or not taking) on climate change. However, I think that through initiatives like the U.S. People’s Delegation and Bloomberg’s U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, we are able to show that our government does not reflect our opinions, and we are here to enforce that. Displayed by the countless American citizens that have come to Bonn to do research, volunteer, and be present in this space, we are representing so much more than where we come from and why we have come to the global climate movement
While having dinner with some of the Pacific Climate Warriors and folks from the It Takes Roots campaign, I have realized that while we cannot afford much time, it is not just to ask for action that happens only how we see realistic change happening. We must always be asking for more than we can get, that extra step that pushes and challenges governments to reflect the people they are supposed to represent – and not the fossil fuel billionaires that think they represent us.
I think that if I have seen one idea in action time and time again here at COP, it is that it’s up to all of us to step up and commit to changing our own lives so we can work together in fighting injustice and climate change. And not only that. We need to step up into leadership roles with those we hold dear so that we know we did all we could when the consequences start hitting us.
Attached are my photos of some really powerful art installations today, the YOUNGO press conference, as well as some photos from Al Gore’s presentation and the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion.