Caitlin attended the 2016 COP22 Conference, representing Central Queensland University. You can read her editorial here or by copying the following URL into your browser: https://www.cqu.edu.au/cquninews/stories/engagement-category/2016/cquni-student-energised-by-experiences-at-un-climate-change-conference
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.
By Samuel Edge, Murdoch University
The second week of our conference started on an elevate note, the $100 Billion target had been reviewed and agreed upon: the Warsaw Mechanism’s review had reached its conclusion. A surprise, given the expectation that talks would continue well into 2017. This was progress. Not the sort of ground shattering, earth-rendering change that the conclusion of Paris was said to be, but things were progressing.
The best ideas presented at the COP so far have tended to come from the side events – away from the politics. Following my research on Finance, I found a number of highly informative sessions held by the Parties in their respective pavilions. One such example was a talk on financing South-South Cooperation projects and the likely direction for the region, in light of current and ongoing climate talks. Included in this group were directors from the Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, each providing a unique insight to the likely direction for development in the region, where the financing was expected to be sourced from and how public financing (from the UNFCCC Mechanisms) could assist in creating the space for private investment.
It has been interesting seeing how diplomats, civil servants and politicians appear to conduct themselves differently, with variances in style and motivation. Where the Ambassador and his/her associates will meet with stakeholders or interested parties for candid talks and light speeches, a Minister or Elected Representative will organise events for political gain and media attention. For example, many would consider gathering a number of engaged young delegates to discuss their views with various Environmental, Youth and Economic Ministers, an excellent opportunity to inform current leaders of young desires and nurture the development of future policy-makers. However, when such an event follows a script, the youth voices pre-selected from a chosen few and those who do speak are handed the microphone with reluctance, one questions the sincerity of a ‘commitment to climate change’ when those most effected have no voice.
The following day saw a number of high-level meetings of note. The first, with the CEO of 1 Million Women, Natalie Isaacs, who provided an excellent narrative on the capacity for a small change individual to enact a larger, national response. The second meeting was with Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, and his staff. Finally, my first (hopefully of many) cocktail event with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Minister Frydenberg and members of DFAT, for the various invited Australian stakeholders attending the COP and organised by the Carbon Market Institute.
As we've moved through the conference we've learned the ins and outs of COP22 and are beginning to more naturally offer our business cards to new and interesting people. Hopefully it will bear fruits – either way, we’ve enjoyed the ride. As we conclude this whirlwind adventure of unimaginable access and exposure to international affairs and diplomacy, I must say a massive 'Thank You' to the Global Voices team and our respective universities for creating this opportunity.
By Caitlin Petersen, Central Queensland University
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to attend a COP (Conference of Parties), will tell you how crazy it is. Plenaries, side events, meetings, informal events... the list goes on. There is no way to fully articulate the wondrous chaos that is the COP, but I will do my best to wrap up day 5 and 6 of my experiences at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.
Friday began with a meeting with the Policywatch team representing Palau at COP22. To hear their amazing stories from how they grew from students to delegates was absolutely fantastic! Global Voices is such a wonderful opportunity and it was so great to meet some of the inspirational Global Voices alumni working with Palau at COP22.
We were also able to meet with Professor Robyn Eckersley, whose knowledge on all things climate and way of so eloquently articulating this, made the opportunity to listen and speak with her a memorable part of this trip.
Friday also saw a busy schedule of side events and informal meetings ranging from Loss and Damage in Small Island Developing States to financing adaptation in African nations.
Saturday marked the last day for week one and it was hectic. We found ourselves moving quickly from event to event to ensure we made it on time. Particularly enjoyable were the different events being held in the Thailand, Malaysian and Japanese pavilions. REDD+ (forestation) was a popular topic amongst these pavilions alongside the need for partnership with pacific islands. I particularly enjoyed a financing workshop in the Japanese pavilion, which considered necessary steps required for financing adaptation in the pacific region.
That evening the whole team dined at a Moroccan cafe before meeting up with other youth delegates to head to a party hosted by Climate Action Network (CAN). Everyone – from youth NGOs to formal delegates – was in attendance, brought together by their joint desire for climate action. It was nice to see everyone let their hair down and come together to enjoy what the night had to offer.
That is all for week 1, but I can't wait to see what week 2 will bring!
By Madelin Strupitis-Haddrick, University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
By day three at the COP, we woke up to a sombre mood in the air, with the US election results being finalised as the sun rose over Marrakech. Arriving at the conference venue, we attended a press conference where members of US NGOs shared their reactions to the presidential election and their expectations of the impacts on global climate action. Whilst this featured much uncertainty, there was a sense of cautious optimism that the global momentum we have seen increasing since the lead up to the Paris climate conference would continue: climate change impacts are leading to public concern; businesses are increasingly investing in low/zero-carbon technology; and, as we have seen these past weeks in Australia, state governments are demonstrating their capacity and willingness to move towards renewable sources of energy.Read More
By Samuel Edge, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs
COP22: Lights, camera… action?
The buzzword for COP22, ‘Action’. We entered into a new world, one brimming with hope, aspirations and questions, for the Paris Agreement had come into effect but much earlier than expected. The onus was now on the parties to ensure they were developing their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), well ahead of the anticipated 2020 date set during the Paris talks of COP21.
What did this mean? Well, it meant the delegates seemed just as uncertain on a specific target or tangible objective as we were about navigating the numerous meetings, events and exhibits. Like any convention, there is a myriad of small things to see and hear yet, unlike a typical convention, many of these were only available on the day. Fortunately, we arrived with members of the Global Voices team, Matt & Riley, who not only provided an extensive list of possible events to attend but also pointed us towards the first significant meeting of the trip: Mr Nedal Katbeth-Bader, Climate Advisor from the Palestine Ministry of the Environment, who highlighted Palestine’s efforts in recent years and the difficult journey ahead for developing countries like his. Our opening days were followed by a meeting with Mr John Connor from the Climate Institute, who spoke on continuing to drive the narrative that was started last year at Paris but to be aware that the agreement was not the only point of significance.
Aside from the meetings, I took the opportunity to attend a side event of particular interest to my paper on Risk Insurance. The talk, hosted by the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), discussed many of the points I had found researching the merits of Risk Insurance and its capacity to provide developing countries the finances and facilities to mitigate and recover from the effects of climate change. However, questions from the audience also brought to light how carefully designed such a form of adaptation must be, as countries like Malawi had been denied the sort of immediate relief after flooding because of a minor technicality on the ‘trigger’ for insurance payouts.
These key points seemed to be reflected in the growing wealth of knowledge afforded by COP veterans: action is what is now needed but there is neither one single answer nor a silver bullet for climate change. Being a part of the UNFCCC does not ensure an end to the problem and neither do any of the methods or mechanisms. However, much like our journey, this is but the beginning of a long process.