By Ashley Fletcher, University of Melbourne Faculty of Science Scholar
It is Wednesday and Day 3 of my Global Voices COP23 climate conference experience. Our first meeting of the day was with Brad Kerin, Company Secretary & Manager, Marketing & Stakeholder Relations from the Carbon Market Institute. The meeting was very informative as Brad thoroughly explained Australia’s current climate and carbon policy including the Emissions Reduction Fund. He also explained how industry is working to reduce its emissions and the interplay between industry and government and the role of the carbon market institute.
I then attended a session on 'Sharing Australia’s Savanna Fire Management Successes'. It was run by the Australian Government and Australian Aid. The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy spoke and announced a $3.8 million project to export indigenous knowledge on traditional fire management to Botswana. Deputy Permanent Secretary Thabang L. Botshoma from the Botswana government was there alongside Nolan Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of the Kimberley Land Council. The Kimberley Land Council have linked land fire management with the sale of carbon credits and have created jobs for indigenous rangers in the region. This was very pertinent as the conference theme for today was indigenous people and it was fantastic to see indigenous representation from Australia in Bonn and exporting their traditional knowledge to the world.
After the meeting, we were free to explore our own areas of interest. I headed to the Bula zone with a quick stop via the American Centre for Climate Action, where there are a number of inflatable domes that hold the 'We Are Still In' contingent - a grouping of over 2500 leaders of regions, cities, corporations and faith organisation from the United States, between the Bula and Bonn zone.
I then travelled to the Bula zone but there was a different atmosphere when I arrived, extra security and media personnel filled the main entrance hall and at that stage, we couldn’t figure out why. There was a meeting on at Bula, the High-Level Segment which we were trying to observe however there was very limited observer seating and we eventually ended up in a spillover room. Once the meeting began we quickly realised why the extra media and security were there, this was the meeting where heads of governments attended. For the next hour or so we saw many heads of government talk about the importance of COP23, the amazing leadership of the Pacific Island nation of Fiji. We saw the leaders from Fiji, France, Gabon, Nauru, Guinea, Niger, Luxenberg on behalf of the EU, Germany and Antonio Guterres who is the current Secretary General of the UN. During the speeches, there were some recurring themes that included: international cooperation, the human face of climate change, the role of private finance, implementation of the Paris agreement, ambition, transparency and Loss and Damage. It was obvious from the multiple speeches that these were the most prominent issues being discussed over the two weeks and we were able to gain a better understanding of the conference.
After a number of speeches, we headed back to the Bonn zone. There are usually electric shuttle buses available however due to the presence of the heads of government at the conference, certain roads were closed and we had to walk. It was the first time I had the opportunity to travel by foot between the two zones and despite being a bit chilly it was great to see the number of art installations that had been erected between. At Bonn there was an unusual number of people crowding around the entrance, we found out that the French President Emmanuel Macron was coming into the venue. We needed to get to the Fiji pavilion for a meeting, however, the crowd to see Macron kept building and it was a tight fit. At the Fiji pavilion, we met with our own Minister Frydenberg where we discussed Australia’s Blue Carbon initiative and the Savanna Project that the Minister had discussed at the Indigenous Pavilion earlier in the day and the assistance and support Australia has provided to Fiji. It was a fantastic discussion and we all were very appreciative to have met with the Minister considering his extremely busy schedule.
Day three was very interesting and the presence of heads of governments signals COP23 is coming to an end and I am keen to make the most of the time I have left.