I’m back for blog post #2! I’ll be covering some highlights from my day 1 – day 4. 

Within an hour of being at COP, I was unexpectedly launched right into the negotiations side of COP. I had started my day at the Mobility Pavilion to begin my client work, and immediately saw a group huddled. I overheard them discussing the COP draft texts. I introduced myself and asked if there were any developments on displacement language. They gave a rundown better than I could have asked for! I learned that displacement language has not been governments’ highest priority, likely because data on the correlations between climate and human movement is underdeveloped and fundamentally difficult to grasp. I learned that text addressing climate-induced displacement had been introduced into the Global Stocktake draft and that other countries might be willing to get on board. The group shared that they were working to contact party negotiators and bring the issue to their attention. I did not know any negotiators, so I set out on a mission to meet some!

My first step was attending a U.S. government briefing for civil society that a fellow Duke cohort delegate told us about (thanks Katie!). Almost all of the U.S. negotiators were present. We all sat around a roundtable, and civil society was given the chance to ask them questions. I just listened. Officials addressed backlash on their support for abatement technologies and explained that ‘no one’ expects CCS to deliver anything significant in this decade, but that abatement could be a solution to close final gaps in longer term emissions reductions. They also referenced the U.S.-China progress made at Sunnylands, and addressed Congressional challenges preventing further contributions to the Loss and Damage fund approved on Day 1 of COP. I stepped out of the session feeling pretty hopeful. It is clear there are challenges, but what I saw in the room were people all trying to do their best within the contexts of expected constraints. The way in which U.S. officials candidly addressed these difficulties, listened to peoples’ lived experiences, and demonstrated a resolve to achieve the most ambition possible left me with clarity and hope for the democratic promise of multilateralism. After the session, I spoke to the U.S. govt point person for civil society, and she kindly put me in contact with two U.S. negotiators!

By day 3, I had found my planned schedule of events unraveling. Partly because there are fewer events happening, and partly because I underestimated how interested I would be in tracking negotiations and supporting all the incredible young people advocating to shape them for the better!

Here’s what that has looked like: As the crowds of networkers and corporates disperse, a mighty and focused group of grassroots organizers and negotiation trackers remain. They camp in B1, sitting on chairs and the floor—whatever space is left. The general mood is one of resolve, to do whatever possible to target parties. As time ticks forward, the game is one of breaking through the fatigue to touch parties emotionally. Most of the young people are being supported in some way by an organization that has insight on the text, like the awesome Women and Gender Constituency. 

I spent most of the rest of COP with these young people. We made a statement of youth demands after reading the disastrous GST draft text released, and we gave these demands to negotiators as they exited the negotiation rooms. We stood outside closed meetings and told ministers to “hold the line” on a phase out of fossil fuels. We planned last minute actions outside the building to sing and speak and unite in solidarity. Let it be known that there were many hands working at all hours to ensure world leaders know that any decision will not go unnoticed.

The last thing I’ll mention is my meeting with two U.S. negotiators. I was honestly surprised and incredibly grateful they were willing to sit down and talk personally with me for what became close to an hour! We talked about what it means to operate as public servants and build consensus. I shared my perspectives on what youth want from spaces like COP. They were immensely kind, well-spoken, and inspiring. In reflection, this may have been the first time I have learned about someone’s job and 100% aspired to do what they do. I hope to continue learning from people like them.