By Madelin Strupitis-Haddrick, University of Sydney (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
The success of climate conferences is often judged based on the texts produced or, in the case of Marrakech, it is based on the progress of technical negotiations for implementing the Paris Agreement. Indeed, international agreements are highly significant in catalysing state action, however non-governmental actors play a crucial and complementary role in realising climate solutions.
Following the opening of the high level segment, the conference was buzzing with government ministers, UN officials and representatives from academic, business and advocacy organisations. Keeping our phones at hand, the Global Voices delegates split up according to our interests, attending sessions in the plenary hall, visiting the displays of environmental technology and innovation in the public zone, watching technical consultations and networking with non-governmental organisations.
On receiving word from our Program Managers, Matt and Riley, we regrouped for two highly anticipated meetings: back-to-back discussions with Helen Clark, former NZ Prime Minister and head of the UN Development Program and Mary Robinson, former Irish President and leader of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. As young women seeking to work for positive change in the world, Riley, Caitlin and I were moved to meet these idols in person and were inspired by their knowledge, passion and willingness to share this with us.
Following these meetings Matt, Sam and I attended the ‘Momentum for Change’ award night. Opened by an address from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, this event highlighted the role of communities in developing solutions to climate change on a local level. From household solar systems in Bangladesh to sustainable cities, the projects that were showcased opened our eyes to the impacts individuals and communities can have on reducing emissions, improving access to clean energy, and improving resilience.
Between these meetings and side events, we also caught up with Liz, a former GV delegate now working for DFAT and Luke, a Researcher from ANU who shared fascinating analysis of the options for a Paris Agreement with and without the United States.
The last few days of the conference ended on a high note for climate action, with Canada, the US and Mexico all releasing Mid-Century Strategies outlining their climate action plans for 2050. Hearing these in the context of the strong leadership, community commitment and hardworking individuals, which we had witnessed, reaffirmed that it is individuals and groups acting at all levels who will be key to the implementation of such policies and the realisation of a safe climate.