Our delegates are sharing their experiences at COP25! Read their blogs to learn more about the conference and what it means to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


 
Written by: Janetta McKenzie

The fantastic thing about attending an international climate change conference is that everyone taking part, from activist organizations to high-level negotiators, deeply understands the necessity to act quickly and well to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and other negative impacts of climate change. No one at COP25 needs to be convinced of the dangers of rising sea levels, increasingly variable temperatures, and more frequent catastrophic events. There is a lot to feel optimistic about in the first days of COP25, which, after a last minute venue-change to Madrid from Santiago, is emphasizing the need to develop an international carbon market mechanism as is laid out vaguely in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. One of the central themes of COP25  is an explicit focus on rapid ambition to enact deep institutional changes.

In the opening remarks of the conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres implored the national delegations to commit to ambitious and swift action, emphasizing that “what we need is not an incremental approach, but a transformational one”.  The need for ambitious , rapid transformation has been echoed in other recent United Nations reports, which indicate that we no longer have the luxury of time.

panelists at SEI event

This sentiment for rapid transformative change is echoed in many of the side events and panels; for instance, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)  hosted a panel on the need to bridge the gap between committed fossil fuel extraction and existing NDC commitments. Essentially, the fossil fuels we have already planned to extract ( to say nothing of unexploited reserves) are currently too high to meet global Paris Agreement targets. Given the Secretary-General’s declaration for transformative change, COP25’s theme of ambition, and next year’s COP26 which promises to deliver much stricter Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from the Parties to the Paris Agreement, we need to aspire to more with regards to dealing with fossil fuel production. Supply-side restrictive energy policies, which the SEI discussed in detail with attention paid to successes in Costa Rica and New Zealand, are a crucial yet under-utilized policy instrument for national governments to signal commitment to rapid, cross-cutting transformation. Canada in particular, as one of the world’s top fossil fuel producers, needs to learn from its international cousins and begin to actively  scale down the oil and gas industry while protecting and supporting  the regions that rely on these industries. 


Written by: Brooklyn Rushton

Three students in front of COP25 posterTwo days of COP25 have come and gone and I am starting to notice a general theme in the topics that I have been following over the past two days. One of the main focuses of COP25 is to enhance ambition for action. While this has been noted in many of the events, one thing that I took away from this ideology of ambition was the power of people and importance of collaboration in society for positive, forward shifts. 

I found that, so far, events that highlighted actual people and communities behind climate change impacts and/or solutions became most memorable for me. I think putting a face behind climate change really has potential to create increase momentum on ambitious actions. Throughout the past two days, we heard a lot about the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities and how this trickles down into the actual people that live in these communities. Stories were shared from Indigenous communities in northern regions to Small Island Developing Nations in more tropical regions. As an example, there is a lot of vocalization from delegates from the Bahamas on the impacts of Hurricane Dorian. One delegate at the Earth Information Day on December 3rd stated that, “we are not the major culprit of climate change, but we take on the major impact”. We also heard from representatives of Indigenous communities in the Amazon Rainforest. During these conversations, there was a lot of discussion about the current crisis regarding forest fires and land use in the Amazon Rainforest and how indigenous people currently have no legal base or title on their territory. This lack of legal basis leaves them with little rights and increases their vulnerability to climate change currently and in the future. I found that this really highlighted the importance of recognizing land rights of Indigenous communities going forward to ensure an equitable fight against climate change. 

Panelists of the toursim sector eventWhile it is important to understand the impacts of climate change on humanity, COP25 has also highlighted the importance of incorporating people into the solution going forward. One event that discussed this regarded bridging the gap of fossil fuel production to reach targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. Conversations discussed that this bridging involves an accelerated movement away from fossil fuel reliance in communities across the world. However, it was emphasized that for this to be a successful and equitable process, people who are affected, such as workers in the fossil fuel industry, need to be at the frontline of this transition. We heard about this from a Canadian perspective, as well as from an international perspective. For the Canadian perspective, Joie Warnolk from UNIFOR discussed the importance of empowering Albertan coal workers by putting them at the heart of the transition in order to achieve a successful phase out of coal in Alberta by 2030. 

We also heard from Alysha Bagasra, who is working on the transition away from fossil fuels in Taranaki, New Zealand. She mentioned that a lot of this transition involves allowing people to “see an opportunity for them and their families in the transition process”. Since the start of this transition, Alysha mentioned that people working in the fossil fuel sector have actively partnered with people to create a shared vision for the future. 

Overall, what I have really appreciated about COP25 so far is that the events really do highlight the importance of climate action for humanity through hearing real stories from vulnerable communities, while also highlighting the power of people to make change going forward. Also, the ability to learn from other countries to understand their vulnerabilities, while also highlighting and celebrating their climate change solutions, has been extremely empowering for me. 


Written by: Muhammad Koya

As a University of Waterloo delegate at COP25 and through my work with Youth Climate Lab, a global non-profit organization focused on accelerating youth-led ideas, projects and businesses that tackle climate change, I received an opportunity to host a guest session at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies’ (IASS) Co-Creative Reflection and Dialogue Space. I spoke to and discussed with other delegates from Switzerland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Germany on how impact investing initiatives can address climate change solutions with youth-inclusive climate finance. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion! 

Muhammad before his presentation

Muhammad presenting to the group

Snapshot of the presentation and discussion with other delegates in the IASS Co-Creative Reflection and Dialogue Space

Young people are at the forefront of climate action, driving practical solutions in their cities, communities, neighbourhoods and families. They represent the demographic most affected by climate change, yet have been historically disempowered to scale their solutions. Youth-led solutions can be high-reward, low-cost approaches to mobilizing climate action at local levels, while simultaneously cultivating an ecosystem of green entrepreneurs at the forefront of the upcoming generation’s clean economy boom. 

Current climate finance has largely been unsuccessful in reaching the most poor and vulnerable communities. In response, intersectional and inclusive approaches to evaluating investment and granting decisions have begun to emerge. Despite this recent and growing effort, the youth demographic, one disproportionately affected by climate change far greater than any other, remains under-considered and under-funded.

By definition, impact investing is when investments are made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside a financial return (Harji, Reynolds, & Best, 2014). Impact investing challenges both of the long-held views that social and environmental issues should be addressed only by philanthropic donations, and that market investments should focus exclusively on achieving financial returns.  

You can clearly see young people everywhere at the events, pavilions, negotiations, and other spaces at COP25.  They are coming from universities, non-profit organizations that they have started, they are participating in programs, and internships, and creating their own projects.  Many of them are funding their own way. Their efforts back home are also largely under-financed. Young people today have immense ambition and generally work on smaller scale projects within smaller groups and communities, that do not have the same level of access to financing for their work compared to big projects that the Green Climate Fund or a bank may finance.

Youth Climate Lab works with young people around the globe and are exploring how to better support youth-led efforts through financing. We are conducting research on youth-inclusive climate finance through a policy workshop at the UN Youth Climate Action Summit not long ago, a literature review, online surveys of climate entrepreneurs, and targeted interviews with global youth and experts.  What we have learned so far is that there are many financial setbacks that relate to the challenges and gaps youth face when trying to achieve action and pursue solutions on climate change.

With this in mind, it is clear that investments in environment are closely linked to poverty, hunger, and health which are challenges that the youth of today are unfairly extremely vulnerable to, especially given that they have inherited the burden of the climate emergency (Sachs & Reid, 2006). On top of this, it is evident that the financial sector has the power to invest in solutions that positively affect the environment and society, while meaningfully contributing to sustainable development. Impact investing methodology poses innovative new approaches to investment and financing models that can allow youth to persevere in climate action.

References:

Harji, K., Reynolds, J., Best, H. (2014). Impact investing in canada. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.marsdd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Impact-Investing-in-Canada-State-of-the-Nation-2014-EN.pdf

Sachs, J. D., & Reid, W. V. (2006). Investments Toward Sustainable Development. Science, 312(5776), 1002.