We’re just wrapping up another great day in Bonn, filled with back-to-back events, panels, and negotiating sessions. Students found their rhythm at the COP and adjusted to the sprawling conference zones (minus a few hiccups traveling between the Bonn and Bula Zones, with an occasional/accidental detour to the airport).

Midway through the day, we learned that Syria announced its intent to sign the Paris Agreement. With that announcement, every single country has either signed or ratified the Agreement; if the United States follows through with its plans to withdraw, it will be the sole nation unaffiliated with the landmark pact. It will be interesting to watch what role the United States plays (or doesn’t play) moving forward as negotiations ramp up. Stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, here are our takeaways from day two:

Duke’s week one crew at COP23.

Sam: Today I attended the IUCN delegation’s meeting prior to the COP events, and was able to sit in on the team’s strategizing session for upcoming events. This gave me an interesting look at the coordination that takes place in preparation for an organization’s events. Following this, I attended the beginning of the opening APA plenary, and then a seminar on ecosystem services (the APA is the body/process charged with overseeing the Paris Agreement implementation). Although the plenary did not deliver anything terribly unexpected, the opportunity to hear the opening statements from each negotiating block helped set the landscape of the negotiations.

Sanjeev: I have very mixed emotions after the last side event that I attended that I attended today. Focusing on climate changed induced displacement and non-economic aspects of loss and damage, the side event had a panel of five speakers ranging from a reverend from Tuvalu, researchers from India and Nepal, a representative from the World Council of Churches and someone who worked very closely with the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. Starting with a short documentary showing the impacts of climate change in the small pacific island of Tuvalu. The reverend gave a very emotional presentation on the direness of the situation in Tuvalu, saying that they do not want to relocate to another country. “Relocation to us means our literal death as people… [If we relocate] we will lose our identity, our sovereignty.” This was followed by other presentations showing just how widely climate-induced displacement was affecting vulnerable populations in different parts of the world, and one of the panelists called out the international community for failing to take action on the issue for decades. 

Many people in the crowd – including me – were visibly angry and frustrated after the presentations. The panelists had touched on very important issues and because they had been completely unfiltered about their views on the issue and given a very honest opinion on things, it hit everyone hard. But at the same time, we could feel the passion and honest desire of the panelists to try and do something good. They were all very deeply invested in the issue – sometimes for many different reasons – and their energy and drive also came across as very inspirational. I am still angry and frustrated, but that emotion is only making me more invested in the issue.

Galen: I had a jam-packed day, starting with Climate Analytics’ team meeting. This was my first glimpse at the inner workings at my client organization. I then spent the rest of the day taking notes at 3 different events focused on Loss and Damage and Climate Risk Insurance. This allowed me to see the perspective on Loss and Damage from numerous perspectives: that of citizens from vulnerable nations, the private sector, researchers, and NGOs.

Rachel: Today was a whirlwind of topics and events. This morning a few of us met with Brian Flannery from Resources for the Future. Brian had been attending the negotiations for years and was a great resource. He discussed how the business community in the United States and around the world has interacted with and helped shape the climate negotiations over the years. He also talked about the oil and gas industry and how many in that industry had advocated for a nationwide carbon tax. This was not something I was aware of so it was interesting to debate and hear a different perspective.

Later in the day I attended sessions on how to design sustainable cities and a panel discussion of climate adaptation efforts around the world. It’s been fun getting to sample such a wide variety of topics in just two days.

Danielle: Day two of the COP saw the start of discussion on more substantive issues in the Article 6 negotiating meetings. Whereas yesterday was almost solely devoted to process, today Parties agreed to move forward with a work plan to develop a document that includes the views of all Parties through an iterative process of discussion and amendment. After four hours of debate and discussion, Parties had made measurable progress in the discussion of the first of the three key provisions of Article 6 for which the group is tasked with developing guidance. Parties continue to disagree on the details of any draft future guidance, but for now they seem to have at least agreed to a common structure for discussion moving forward.

Tasfia: To experience a different side of the convention, I spent much of the second day of COP 23 attending events organized by research institutes and exploring information booths by NGOs. I also met with the delegation to a vulnerable coastal least developed nation and sat in on their internal delegation meeting.

I noticed that many of the NGOs and research institutes focused on the same issues that least developed nations identified as most important. These issues included loss and damage, climate risk financing, and slow onset effects of climate change. Unlike the established fields of adaptation and mitigation, these issues are still largely evolving and being negotiated. Developing nations need support in creating and implementing frameworks that address these challenges, and it appears that many NGOs are ready to help – both by supporting capacity themselves and by pressuring developed nations to engage.

I am curious to see where negotiations on these topics will go over the next two weeks. Will details on these issues be fleshed out for the 2018 rulebook? Will they eventually be included in the upcoming five-year-plan of the Warsaw International Mechanism? Will there be a separate mechanism to address loss and damage, or will the issue be an agenda item in other meetings? I plan to closely track these topics in the negotiations and see what progress is made.