Author: Isabel Rewick

COP27: A Highlight of My Time at Duke

It has been insightful to look back on my experience at week 2 of the COP after some time away and to appreciate both the international scale of accomplishments and the areas to continue negotiating. There were definitely moments throughout the week where you could sense the frustration from negotiators in the room and the critiques from Blue Zone attendees seemed overwhelming. There were questions as to how effective and impactful, particularly for climate-vulnerable communities, this process actually is. I felt myself sharing in that frustration that many of the moving and eye-opening conversations happening at the pavilions, particularly the Climate Justice Pavilion and the Resilience Hub, weren’t being heard by all of the negotiators. I wanted people’s stories and experiences to factor into more of the negotiations. It was striking that two pavilions, like the Climate Justice Pavilion and the We Mean Business Pavilion, could spend COP27 right next to each other but each serve seemingly entirely different demographics. People could go the entire conference never interacting with a subject matter that was the sole reason for someone else being there and never engaging with each other’s stories. 

Despite divisiveness in the negotiations and the Blue Zone setup, I continue to be in awe of the magnitude of the COPs representing 192 countries and yearning for a safer and more just future. As we’ve discussed in our class, we have come so far as an international community since greenhouse gases were first discovered. COP27 marked an important two weeks of progress since that time period, one that ultimately gave me great hope. I had the opportunity to bear witness to incredible moments like the operationalization of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, the press conference on the Global Methane Pledge with a surprise visit from China’s special climate envoy, and the series of talks that I attended with speakers including Saleemul Huq, Farhana Yamin, Libby Schaaf, and Brenda Mallory. I found it similarly fascinating to analyze the decision texts on Loss and Damage that were released very early Sunday morning after the official end date of the conference. After following this topic and the negotiations so closely for the past months, knowing the outcome of COP27 for Loss and Damage was particularly exciting. There is still much left to do and I’m looking forward to engaging in this work after graduation. But the successes of this COP should not go underappreciated. 

I want to conclude the semester by expressing my gratitude. This class, its community, and the opportunity to attend COP27 truly were among the highlights of my academic career at Duke and have inspired me immensely. I am unbelievably grateful to have been in this class with such wonderful TAs and faculty and engaged classmates. As Dhruv has emphasized, you have to understand the UNFCCC process to be able to critique the process and I credit this class for affording me the opportunity to do both of these things. Thank you! 

COP27: a Launching Point for Loss and Damage

As I reflect on my experience from the second week of COP27, I’m flipping through my notebook full of commentary and notes on side events, pavilions, and negotiations. This past week was one of the most riveting weeks of my academic career. It exposed me to ideas and topics that I had yet to encounter and provided a platform for voices that are traditionally not heard from in the policy sphere. The topics of events that I attended ranged from blue food systems to green hydrogen innovation to local, state, and federal partnerships in the US to JETPs to early warning system applications to translating science into community knowledge. The vast array of topics was incredible and I found myself constantly updating my schedule to fit in events that I stumbled upon while walking through Zones B and C or to attend negotiations that were announced at the last minute. Even as I’ve described events and interesting information to friends since being back, they have all commented on the excitement in my voice as I reflect on this past week. There truly is nothing like it and I feel so fortunate and privileged to have attended and been able to go from event to event.  

As I mentioned in my first blog post, the area of interest that I went into week two with was loss and damage and this was what some of the most stimulating events and negotiations were centered on. This topic was obviously hotly debated throughout COP27 and negotiators reached a conclusion only in the final hours of the conference. While I loved learning about climate mitigation and adaptation through the various lenses of the events that I attended, loss and damage really captivated me. I had the opportunity to hear from and speak with Professor Saleemul Huq, the Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development and one of the foremost experts on loss and damage. His comments and reflections on COP27 really being COP1 for loss and damage were eye-opening and inspiring. My conversations with Nate Warszawski and Preety Bhandari from the World Resource Institute really delved me further into the complexities of loss and damage negotiations and revealed so much insight into the politics of COP27. These discussions truly made my COP27 experience. I was lucky enough to be in the room when the draft texts were agreed upon to operationalize the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, a process that was two years in the making. It was conversations with Nate that provided me with the background to understand the process of the negotiations and the gravity of this moment.

COP27 confirmed to me that this is the work that I want to do in the future. Loss and damage is inherently complex because it reaches so many aspects of our lives but the difficulties in quantifying its effects should not cause us or negotiators to underestimate or undervalue how deeply loss and damage impacts climate-vulnerable populations. These events, the negotiations that I had the pleasure of attending, and my work with WRI really underscored the importance of this work to me. We can surely expect to see more work on loss and damage in the future and I’m looking forward to engaging in it. 

Will week two bring progress on a Loss and Damage finance facility?

We’ve just landed at the Cairo International Airport and are currently waiting to board our next flight to Sharm El Sheikh. Despite the lengthy journey, I’m filled with excitement and am looking through the events schedule to plan for the next week. After coming back from a semester abroad in Paris, France, I really wanted more exposure to climate negotiations at the international level. The advertisement for this class hit my inbox at just the right time. I applied to Duke’s UNFCCC Practicum and was thrilled when I was accepted. We haven’t even arrived at COP27 yet and this class has been one of the most unique experiences that I’ve had during my four years at Duke. The class discussions and guest speakers have provided me with a real appreciation and understanding of the negotiations that I’m looking forward to applying to the COP in Sharm El Sheikh.

One of the most memorable experiences so far has been working with the World Resource Institute (WRI) and their Allied for Climate Transformation by 2025 consortium (ACT2025) to prioritize the voices and goals of climate-vulnerable populations. I had the opportunity to work with Preety Bhandari, the Senior Advisor of WRI’s Global Climate Program and Finance Center, and Nate Warszawski, a research associate for the International Climate Action program. I have been really fortunate to receive as much support and guidance as I have from Nate and Preety. I met with them at least once a week for last the six weeks during which they supplemented what I knew about ACT2025, answered any questions I had as to how course material applied to prior negotiations, and advised me on how to make the most of my time at COP27. Both Preety and Nate were incredibly giving with their time and I feel lucky to have so much candid advice from them. Their support will allow me to take full advantage of my time at COP27 and I’m looking forward to meeting them in person this week!

In advance of my final meeting with Preety and Nate before COP27, I completed the project that I was working on for them. My area of interest for COP27 has been analyzing the progress in Loss and Damage negotiations and the potential creation of a finance facility. So I assisted with ACT2025’s preparation for COP27 by analyzing country reports on Loss and Damage. I examined ten of the twenty-one Party UNFCCC submissions from the first round of submissions on the global stocktake to identify commonalities and differences between the various “developing” and “developed” country submissions. This research gave me insight into Party positions ahead of COP27 in addition to preparing me for our mock class negotiation on Loss and Damage. It’s been interesting following the negotiations thus far and comparing what I’ve read to my research. With funding for Loss and Damage on the COP27 agenda, this next week could provide an opportunity for progress in creating a finance facility for climate-vulnerable populations. I’m eager to learn what will happen and will be following closely.

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