The UNFCCC Negotiations

Today was an incredible day for me, very full and inspiring. This morning I was able to attend the YOUNGO (youth constituency) meeting for the first time, and it was really powerful to see so many initiatives, working groups, and actions being organized by youth from all over. I have noticed one thing throughout the COY and YOUNGO meetings: the word ‘youth’ is differently defined everywhere you go in the world. It’s interesting how youth become involved in the more formal – from my perspective – side of these negotiations. I never knew about YOUNGO until I learned about COP, and I wouldn’t have known how to become involved had I not been to COY and talked with folks there that are also really big parts of YOUNGO.

A key example of how YOUNGO is well thought out and how they really reflect their values and the ideal UN process is the hand signals used during the meeting. They had signals like an L (with your thumb and pointer finger) if you have a language barrier and need translation, a C-shape to call for a clarification, an O-shape with your arms if you feel you are being oppressed, a pointer finger going in circles to speed up the talking, and a few others I can’t remember. This to me seemed to perfectly exemplify the values and ideas behind YOUNGO, but also ultimately behind the youth movement and how they are similar or congruent with the ideals that spurred the formation of the UN.

After the YOUNGO meeting, I attended a press briefing from the U.S. People’s Climate Delegation that was so powerful and rooted me in why it’s so important for the true U.S. to be represented here. In meeting youth from all over the world at COY, folks were surprised to hear that I had negative opinions about our president and his anti-climate agenda. Even just the fact that I got to meet them and share my experience of growing up in the U.S. made me feel so empowered in my role here. There were speakers from Sunrise Movement (that I’m involved with in Pennsylvania), 350, Organizacion Boricua, It Takes Roots, Indigenous Environmental Network, Our Children’s Trust and Climate Generation (Ellen Anderson crushed it!). It was very powerful to hear many of my opinions and stances on the U.S. and what our demands need to be echoed in so many others who have come to Bonn for similar reasons. Hearing our demands voiced by other U.S. People’s Climate delegates, I was reminded of the urgency and importance of our presence here – even if it is overwhelming and exhausting and doesn’t always feel like I am using my time to it’s utmost because of the time it takes to figure everything out.

The coolest thing today happened during the COP opening plenary session. They called upon a YOUNGO representative to add comments as part of civil society, along with comments from all the other nine official UNFCCC constituencies. To me, that really exemplified that the UNFCCC system is put in place to not marginalize people. While it does and can feel exclusive, the idea is for everyone to be at the table.

At one point, there were more women on stage than men. This was surprising and very noticeable compared to the overall male dominance of the negotiation spaces I have been in so far. During the session, countries presented their stances, the COP23 president announced working groups and their coordinators, and the nine UNFCCC constituencies talked about their stances on next-steps. Highlights included hearing from the Environment Constituency, the Women and Gender Constituency, as well as the ICLEI and Local Government and Municipal Authorities. It was clear the civil society groups are demanding accelerated and amplified action, which is exactly what we need. Now we just see how COP negotiations and the UNFCCC respond and reflect that…

Another thing that’s very interesting is how actions exist inside the COP23 secure zones, how they are approved, and what effect they have. I was part of organizing the Women and Gender Constituency in partnership with the YOUNGO Women and Gender working group action today in front of the main negotiation room. Because of the UNFCCC rules, you must get all actions approved beforehand. The approval process is very detailed and you must submit all messages you want to say or write, as well as where specifically the action will be and how many people can come. It was awesome to see some action inside the zones, because the negotiations are slow and not always efficient. Actions are a way to get visibility and at least share your message.

Every evening, the Climate Action Network (CAN) puts out a Fossil of the Day to highlight a country that is doing their best to be the worst at climate action. So, they’re doing the most to do the least for climate in that day of the COP. I’ve included some videos of today’s Fossil of the Day as an example of what happens inside the negotiations and the visibility of the public’s reactions to it.

Moving forward, I am reflecting on what climate action means, what it can look like, and what makes it efficient and why. I think this is a key part in thinking about the role of official negotiations like this in the greater global climate movement. And, it greatly affects how the world looks at the first issue of its kind that we’ve had to solve globally and in this timeframe.

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