Author: Ana Gargollo García Rendón

Back to Reality After COP27

Now that some time has passed since my experience at COP27, it has given me the opportunity to fully (or at least somewhat) process everything. It has been especially interesting to read all the news stories surrounding this COP and get to talk to my classmates who went in Week 2 about their experience. Because many of the big announcements and the final texts are approved and released during week 2, I did not get to experience that in person, but was definitely following closely through the news and my classmates. I really enjoyed getting to have different perspectives, both literally living the negotiations and events, and also reading about them in a more objective way.

Something that struck me when reading the news and talking to people who didn’t attend COP, however, was how much criticism was surrounding the event. Because climate change is a such a contentious and urgent matter that concerns the global community, there are a lot of strong opinions surrounding events like the COP. I did hear and read a lot of criticism regarding the carbon footprint of the event itself, and the fact that Coca Cola was the official sponsor; in that sense, the event was being accused of greenwashing. Along those lines, some people questioned the presence of big (and therefore emitting) companies in the side event, stating they should not be invited because they are simply pushing their agenda. On the other hand, there was a lot of commentary regarding the negotiations and progress made towards mitigation, adaptation, and loss & damage, with the obvious win being the new Loss and Damage Fund. Being so immersed in the experience, I tended to focus on the positive and be overwhelmed by all the flurry of action I saw around me; it made me feel part of a global community of people, organizations and governments really trying to make a difference. Coming back to these more “objective” news and conversations made me question my perspective to some degree and made me reconsider whether I had fallen into the “greenwashing” as well. I am still unsure about what to make of this, but I do consider it is important to bring as many actors as possible to the table and develop solutions together. I am an advocate for involving the private sector, exactly because they are big polluters and we should be bringing their perspectives and needs into consideration when designing a green transition, otherwise it will fail. On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed in most side events I attended because there wasn’t as much depth as I was expecting – I found they often talked about how important taking action was but did not propose anything tangible and rather presented how their company or government was “concerned” and “committed to the cause”.

Looking back at the whole experience, I am shocked by how much was accomplished considering the magnitude of the issue and the logistical challenges of bringing everyone together to agree on international treaties. While it is still not enough to completely tackle the mitigation, adaptation, and loss & damage issues of climate change, I still think it is remarkable we are moving forward as a global community. And while it was not a “dramatic” COP with many important announcements and eye-catching conflicts in negotiations, I realized that was actually a good thing; this meant countries are working on operationalizing the agreements and, while that can be very detail-heavy and slow, it is extremely important to actually get to the implementation stage and take action. Overall, I am extremely grateful to have been able to have that experience and not only attend insightful events, but also meet incredibly interesting people and feel motivated to continue doing climate work.

Highlights and Reflections from COP27

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!

We made it!

It’s finally here – the day we get to go to COP27! This day came around faster than expected; at the beginning of the semester we were still unsure if we were even going to be here so I told myself I would not get my hopes up. As time passed and more items got checked off the to-do list, it started becoming real, until we finally got our confirmation letter from UNFCCC and our Egypt visa.

While I am tired and still a bit dazed from such a long journey, I am excited to finally be here, and extremely grateful for the opportunity to have such a life-changing experience. The journey itself didn’t get off to a great start, with our flight from New York to Cairo being cancelled, and having to spend two nights in a hotel in Long Island until we were finally able to get another flight. It was a less-than-ideal situation, but we made the most of it as a group, and it gave me time to reflect on what I want to get out of COP (and also a full two days to calm down my nerves!). A silver lining from that experience is that we had a mini COP27, Long Island edition – we meet incredible people at the hotel and got the opportunity to strike very interesting conversations over dinner around climate finance, loss and damage and the role of developing countries. It helped me get in the mindset of such an event, and start familiarizing myself with the different types of people attending COP, and their agendas. The actual event hasn’t even started yet, and I am already amazed at the people I have met. At dinner, we met people ranging from a group creating a documentary on students and climate change, journalists from AP France, and someone from Fundación Avina in Perú. And on the flight from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh I had the good luck of sitting next to the Deputy Director of Communications for Bahamas, who was coordinating all the Bahamas events; she told me all about how Bahamas is facing sea-level rise and increasing hurricane intensity, but still people do not understand the importance of climate negotiations; her job was to communicate this.

These encounters made me question why I was coming to COP; I keep talking to people who have a very specific purpose and seem to have a lot to say, and it honestly makes me doubt myself a little and get a bad case of impostor syndrome. Do I have as much to say? Am I just a student on a class “field trip”? Or am I really here to make my voice heard, absorb as much as I can and create meaningful connections with people making an impact? I have to remind myself that I am not just a student, I also have valuable work experience that is worth sharing and I’m on my way to finishing a graduate degree in which I am becoming an expert in environmental economics. I do have a lot to contribute, I just need to remind myself of that. That being said, I also have a lot to learn and I’m excited to get started!

© 2024 Duke to the UNFCCC

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑