COP27 was such a whirlwind of experiences, emotions, people and events that I am still processing everything I got to witness. My client was WRI Mexico and Colombia, so I got to spend a lot of time in the Colombia Pavilion (unfortunately Mexico didn’t have a pavilion because the environment is simply not a priority in this government) and meet incredible people there; for example, I got to meet the people who developed and implemented the carbon tax and the emissions trading system in Colombia, and it was amazing to learn from them. Another one of my highlights was attending an event where Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela), Gustavo Petro (Colombia) and Chan Santokhi (Surinam) talked about the importance of collaborating between Amazon countries to conserve this key ecosystem. It was one of the first appearances Maduro has made in the UN in a long time, considering all the human rights violations happening in his country, so it was very shocking to see him in person (and most shocking still, to see people go up to him to take photos). I had mixed feelings about this; in order to address climate change, we need to have all hands on deck and all countries need to be taking action, however, should we be allowing dictators to come to the table? I am still grappling with this.


On another happier note, I got to attend a lot of very interesting events and negotiations. While I was focused on following Article 6, I definitely got pulled in many directions such as sustainable tourism panel, capacity building and even sustainable cities. I really enjoyed learning from such a breadth of topics and found it hard to concentrate on only one. I found that COP is a constant exercise on being present and grounded because there is always something more exciting happening; it’s important to stay in the moment, enjoy and make the most of where you are. However, jumping from place to place did help me discover a new interest for climate finance and especially how market-based mechanisms can be used for this. On this note, I attended a panel on debt and the climate crisis, and solutions to address these dually. One of the highlights from that panel was climate finance should be seen as an investment, and not as simply a donation; philanthropy, they said, should be used for building technical capacity and feasibility studies, getting to a blended finance model. This point was further highlighted in another even on multi-level cooperation with subnational government and civil society, where they talked about the difficulty cities and communities had to access climate finance, and the possible solution these mayors and governors had found.  I thought these innovations in finance were very interesting!

As a whole, my COP experience was amazing – it was invigorating to be surrounded by so many people who cared about the same things I did and who were equally (if not more) passionate. It made me feel reassured we’re at least trying to get on the right path towards a 1.5C future. However, I did find a stark contrast between the negotiations and the side events, with a lot of activity, excitement and different stakeholders at side events. This signaled to me how much civil society and private sector want to, and should, get involved, but the agreements themselves are only at country level. I also found negotiations to be more low-energy and while that was disappointing, I realized the seriousness of what was being discussed; even if it seemed as mundane as arguing over where the comma should be, these are the kinds of details that are needed to actually operationalize the agreements.

I would like to thank Duke University for allowing me to go on such an enriching opportunity and to participate in such a high-level event, it really was a dream come true. Now, back to reality!