Written by Janetta McKenzie

Week 1 at COP25: A Lesson in Balance

Attending COP25 was an intellectual rollercoaster, and my biggest takeaway from this experience was understanding the fundamental conflict in striving for balance: global frameworks vs. local achievements; specific, efficient action vs. comprehensive, systemic change; ambition fueled by urgency vs. taking time to build consensus. Reflecting upon my week at COP25, I am struck by the distinctive character of these debates and negotiations. There is no argument brooked regarding the existence or severity of the climate crisis, but there is an inherent tension in balancing ideology and pragmatism which I think was thrown into the spotlight at COP25. My own decisions reflected this tension as I spent about half of my time attending the side events, populated largely by activists, academics, and the private sector (with some representation from national governments) and the negotiations themselves, which were often limited to high-level civil servants and policy wonks. 

Even in terms of the logistical setup, the negotiation rooms were separated from (although connected to) the side events, country pavilions, and research panels. Moving between the two areas was an exercise in contradictions, as the Article 6 negotiations (which aim to establish an international carbon market mechanism) were concerned with purely reducing greenhouse gas emissions quickly and efficiently, whereas the larger side event areas seemed to be emphasizing a much broader agenda focused on global climate justice and environmental degradation. This is not necessarily unexpected; it makes sense for the United Nations to encourage these discussions in an effort to foster inclusivity and diversity. And while the side events seemed to be concerned with more ‘big picture’ issues with globalization, capitalism, and historical oppression, they also grounded these debates in local, community-based experiences and examples. This is in direct contrast to the Paris Agreement negotiations themselves, which are concerned with the pragmatic task of setting up a global framework for reducing emissions and adapting to impacts that could be flexible enough to work in all contexts, all the time. 

I was struck by the contradictions between these two ideals: grassroots, context-specific calls for climate justice on the one hand, and high-level, specific discussions regarding the minutiae of carbon markets on the other. Having said that, there were some panels and side events dedicated to the same topics that country negotiators were discussing, like the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage that addresses the already unavoidable impacts from extreme events in  developing countries, or the Adaptation Fund that increases developing countries’ capacity to implement adaptation measures. However, for the most part the tone of the two areas seemed completely distinctive, and often at odds with each other. 

Again, this tension is not necessarily a bad thing; it is good to have multiple approaches, worldviews, and ideologies represented at COP25, both to hold policymakers to account and to provide a platform for historically marginalized groups who have struggled to find a seat at the table. However, I would have liked to see more of an effort to bridge the gap between the grassroots ideals of climate justice and the macro-level focus on international frameworks. I think that there was room for more mid-level discussions on bridging theory and practice, ideology and pragmatism, giving the option for both the energy of community-led movements and the structure of international treaties to be used in concert to avoid climate catastrophe, and transform the underlying systemic paradigms that induced climate change in the first place. 

Photo of Informal Negotiations at COP25

Article 6 Informal Negotiations, 6 December 2019

At the end of the day, I think COP25 has done a pretty decent job of allowing everyone to speak to their experiences with climate change, while also acknowledging that ultimately the country negotiators are there to accomplish a much narrower set of tasks. Having said that, there is room for improvement going forward with regards to integrating these larger anxieties regarding climate justice and systemic inequalities into the United Nations. Due to the historically lackadaisical approach from international organizations and national governments, a certain loss of faith in those institutions from activists and marginalized groups is expected. But there does seem to be a newfound sense of urgency, ambition, and inclusiveness from the COP, epitomized by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa imploring the attending nations that “we need your decisions. We need your leadership. We are out of time”.


Written by Brooklyn Rushton

Brooklyn standing in front of COP25 signAs the days went by at COP25, I started to become more and more aware about actions that are occurring on the ground level across the world. Since the theme of this COP is ‘Time for Action’, this realization was extremely refreshing as I sometimes find the lack of action on the national level frustrating. I find through media coverage, ambition on climate action can seem to be lacking. But what COP25 taught me is that there is more going on than can be seen by the naked eye. 

Throughout the week, COP was full of events put on by NGOs, civil society organizations, and Indigenous communities across the world that are extremely active on climate action. One group that was very active during the first week of COP was the Global Ecovillage Network. Their work is extremely important as their mission is to catalyze communities for a regenerative world and act as a strong platform for international projects that accelerate the transition to more resilient societies. This organization has expanded all across the world, in both rural and urban areas, with one of their main projects involving the restoration of degraded lands with sustainable agricultural practices, such as permaculture, that helps sequester carbon and increase food security. 

Panelists at COP25 event

We also learned about the importance of civil society in the movement away from carbon-based energy sources. During an event called ‘Renewable Energy in Cities, hosted by REN21, Morocco was highlighted as a success story of how citizen activism can lead to increased ambition. Civil society in Morocco actually pushed the national government to understand the importance of environmental and renewable energy projects for a sustainable future. This push eventually resulted in the Government of Morocco adopting a 50% renewable energy target by 2025 and establishing a ‘Renewable Energy Unit’, that includes government officials and civil society working together to make this target achievable. 

performance by Maori artistAnother story of action was the banning of offshore oil in New Zealand due to citizen uprising. This was highlighted by a documentary presented at the Moana Blue Pacific pavilion. This 10-year fight against large oil companies showed the New Zealand Government what citizens wanted, which resulted in the current New Zealand administration prohibiting the granting of licenses for offshore oil drilling. The Moana Blue Pacific pavilion also presented a documentary called ‘Vaka’ that highlighted the island of Tokelau and their transition to all renewable electricity sources in 2012. This success story truly emphasised how small island nations, which are inherently those most impacted by climate change, are also the ones leading on climate action in many cases. 

COP25 ended by bringing people together from all across the world with a performance by Maori artist Rako Pasefika in the “Moana Blue Pacific” pavilion. For me, this was a perfect way to end this amazing experience as I COP really opened my eyes to the power of communities across the world. Reminiscing on this amazing experience, I feel like my worldview has been enhanced by showing me the resilience that can be built solely due to strong social connections and the reconnection with the natural world. 

This leads me to one of my key take-aways from COP 25. I think that we often believe technology will save us from this climate emergency. However, what COP has taught me is that while technology plays a large piece in this puzzle, the strength in our social connections and relationship with nature also hold a drastic part in the transition. All in all, COP25 was a truly inspiring and enriching experience and I am so thankful to IC3 and the University of Waterloo for giving me this opportunity!


Written by Muhammad Koya

Resilience

Currently widely reported in world news, the outcomes of the United Nations’ climate negotiations at COP25 were less than ideal to say the least. This year’s negotiations did not start off on the right note either, with the president of Chile announcing they would not be able to host the event due to the country’s serious anti-government protests in Santiago.

COP25 eventLuckily, a move to Madrid within days of Chile’s cancellation saved COP25 and allowed it to be held on the exact same dates intended. As the negotiations progressed, it became apparent most nations were not taking COP25’s motto, “tiempo de actuar”or “time for action”, very seriously. Unfortunately and ultimately, a consensus was not reached in many different areas of the negotiations and most decisions have been postponed to next year. However, I still feel there is hope for the state of climate negotiations and global progress on the climate crisis.

Perhaps my source of hope for climate progress comes from a recurring theme of resilience in my own life, yet I feel my experience and exposure at COP25 allowed me to witness a groundswell of action from actors other than governments. COP25, and the UNFCCC COPs in general, are organized with a variety of sections and have many attendees from organizations around the world. There are negotiations, side events, pavilions, civil society meetings, press conferences, and even protest actions by attendees to put further pressure on governments. Beyond the layout of the COP25 space, the attendees are made up of government delegations and representatives, civil society members, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, universities, research institutes, private sector organizations, amongst many more.

Busy room at COP25 event

All of the events, meetings, and presentations that occur outside of the negotiation process illustrate climate action is being conducted in many different places. While the history of the UN climate process has always placed focus on negotiations between governments, there was a light shone on the many environmental and social initiatives being carried out globally by communities, private sector, non-profits, and other groups. On top of this, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have been deeply embedded in the minds of anyone working within the realm of sustainability and climate change. I believe these initiatives, that are external to the work of governments, highlight a deeper level of resilience within our society that is typically not reported in media and generally not discussed amongst us. Not to mention that 60-75 years ago, it would have been next to impossible to have every country in the world sitting at the same table, in one room, trying to discuss and achieve international cooperation on a single issue. If anything, my one take away from attending COP25 is that action needs to happen from every facet of our society for progress to be made on climate change. Better yet, there is clear evidence that pockets of action are emerging at all levels of society.

As a student in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment, both during my undergraduate degree and currently in my master’s degree, it is quite disheartening to see the world’s governments fail to collaborate on the most urgent issue of our time. Despite the negative outcomes from COP25, the growing loss of faith in the UN climate process, and the level of inaction from government, I still have hope and believe that a certain level of resilience is required within all of us to ensure progress is made from other fronts. It is time for all of us to act – tiempo de actuar.


Written by: Verity Martin

COP25 was my third UNFCCC COP and my fourth time observing UNFCCC negotiations. I am very familiar with the centers, the schedule, the process, the flow of the side events. But from the moment I stepped into the conference center this one felt different. This last year has been monumental for the fight for climate action: Greta Thunberg launched a global movement, motivating children and adults to strike for the climate. The Green New Deal brought climate change back to the forefront of American politics, and many other federal elections had a newly significant climate element. The IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degrees with its succinct “12 years left” line resonated with the general public more than any other argument thus far. Its importance was felt at COP24 and the fact that its rhetorical impact has lasted an entire year is nothing short of miraculous. The public is finally latching on to the global climate movement; environmentalists have found their tipping point.

Despite this huge shift elsewhere in the world, the mood during the second week of COP25 is best described as grief and anger. Grief for the Indigenous people facing increasing violence in their fight against the destruction of the Amazon being blatantly facilitated by the Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, grief over the 2020 GAP report which made it clear we are farther than ever from meaningful climate action, and grief for the process which was and is being willfully dismantled and disrespected in front of our eyes. Anger at the shrinking space for civil society in a venue packed with oil, gas, and business lobbies, anger at the absurd tone deafness of party delegates refusing to respond to the calls for action echoing outside, and anger at our own complicity in a process that does not and cannot hold parties accountable.

This COP was not meant to have enormous significance with the Paris rulebook mostly behind us and the 2020 NDC submission and review still ahead. Reaching a satisfactory COP decision would have been as simple as keeping or integrating human rights into all articles of the Paris agreement, adopting the Gender Action Plan (the single victory), settling on a common time frame (ideally five years), and reaching a deal on carbon markets that would prevent hot air and double counting mechanisms. On the last of these points (Article 6) the Chilean Presidency was determined to come to a resolution. Article 6 dominated this COP; a blockade of big emitters, led by the US, Brazil, and Australia, actively stood in the way of progress, fighting for the carryover of Kyoto credits and the protection of other double counting mechanisms. This battle held much of the negotiations on other topics hostage, with countries holding out on issues of transparency and loss and damage in response to issues over hot air and double counting. And so COP25 ended, nearly 48 hours later than it was meant to, with so little progress it almost seems like we're going backwards. Parties invoked Article 16 in multiple negotiations, pushing them back either to Bonn in the Spring or Glasgow next winter. Some party observers whispered that the intention seemed to be to invoke Article 16 indefinitely; there is no limit on how often it can be invoked.

So other than nowhere, where does this leave us leading into COP26 in Glasgow? If there is little to no progress made at the intersession in Bonn the agenda for COP26 has effectively doubled in size. Beyond that, COP25s failure to set parameters around time frames, measurement, and transparency have handed parties a perfect excuse not to revise their NDCs in advance of Glasgow and integrate more ambition. How can a country plot it's emissions targets if there is no consensus on whether these targets will be for five or ten years? Beyond that, the fragmentation within the Paris Agreement weakens it. If the US pulls out, providing Brazil with the political cover to do the same, the significance of the Paris Agreement, most of which is given due to its near universality, will diminish. Barring all this: it has been made very clear that Parties will continue to act in their own short term interest. Much of the messaging coming from civil society in the final days was along the lines of: if you can't come to a decent agreement it would be better not to come to one at all. What makes us think Parties are likely to be in a more cooperative position any time soon? This seems less an indication that COP25 has failed and more an indication that the Paris Agreement is failing.

Beyond the apathy of the Parties it was incredibly disheartening to face the indignation of the UNFCCC Secretariat who made it very clear to civil society that they were not only unwelcome, but a nuisance. I will note here that the UNFCCC pavilion was sponsored by Facebook, Visa, and many other transnational corporations (some of which with oil ties). There were multiple sanctioned side events hosted by oil, gas, and business lobbies and associations. In contrast, civil society organizations were often denied meeting room space (there was plenty available), had meetings rooms abruptly switched with five minutes of less notice. Two civil society publications will a long history of being distributed at UNFCCC negotiations were banned, with one being reestablished in the second week after a hard fought battle with the Secretariat. Several applications for actions were denied, and when those actions took place without permission over 200 observers were corralled and forcibly removed from the venue. All observers, regardless or involvement, were disallowed from entering the venue for the remainder of the day and despite significant lobbying efforts from a broad coalition of civil society representatives three observers were debadged for the remainder of the conference. As the closing plenary dragged on into Saturday, civil society was denied the right to hold an alternative People's Plenary until 50 civil society representatives marched into the Secretariat's office and insisted.

It is imperative that the civil response to the COP failure be one that fights to hold indocity governments accountable. Parties have given themselves an excuse to delay action once again. They must not be allowed to use it.


Written by Valentina Castillo Cifuentes

It has been one week since COP25 was concluded, and I have to say that I have a mix of feelings regarding this experience. After COP I went back to my home country Chile, and when people asked me how did it go answer that it went well for me because it was a such a wonderful experience, but at the same time the negotiations did not go as expected so I was disappointed. People around the world already knew that the outcomes were not the expected, therefore there have been news, twits, and comments regarding the negative role of Chile as the holder of COP25’s presidency. 

Valentina standing in front of poster

Despite of these outcomes, I would like to highlight the great experiences that I had at COP25. As mention in my past blog, I was surprised by the actions taken by local governments around climate emergency regardless that their national governments do not believe in climate change. I had the chance to assist to the Green Zone of COP25 which is open to the public, and I was amazed by the activities and the large number of young people that assisted. Young people have taken seriously that this is the #TimeForAction, and there is no way back. The feeling I had from that experience is that the Blue Zone was somewhat disconnected from the Green Zone, which shows that there is lack of connection between authorities and governments, and their communities. People at the Green Zone were actually talking about real life experiences, and how the consequences of climate change and inequalities have modified their way of living. While in the Blue Zone delegations, and side events were talking about how great their communities are doing, and the actions that are needed to undertake in the future. 

Group playing climate change gameWhile wandering in the Green Zone, one of the organizations that caught my attention the most was Climate Collage, which is a French organization that aims for educating as many people as possible about climate change. Climate collage is game where people have to organize cards that contain information from IPCC reports regarding causes and consequences of climate change. I had the chance to play the game at one of their side events in the Blue Zone, and I was surprised about the things I did not know about climate change. As it is an education tool, and the organization’s purpose is to reach people all over the world, everyone who play the game can become a facilitator and play the game with their community. Since I participated of one of the games, I am planning to organize a workshop during winter term and play the game with our community at the University of Waterloo.

Canadian Minister of Environment making speechAnother great moment at COP25 was the reception that the Canadian Minister of Environment Jonathan Wilkinson and the Canadian Ambassador to Spain Matthew Levin hosted. The reception started with a welcoming speech from the ambassador followed by a speech from the Minister Wilkinson that focused on the role of Canada in the negotiations. Indigenous peoples that were invited to the reception gave their speech as well, highlighting a lack of inclusiveness in the negotiations.

What I believe is that this lack of inclusiveness, and disconnection from communities, youth and marginalized people was a topic in COP25. Some critiques around this were the sayings of Jennifer Morgan, director of Greenpeace International, and Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa. Morgan stated that Chile’s focused was not in the people, instead the country focused on the polluters. Adow declared that the Chilean governments is failing in fighting climate change, as well it is failing to their own people. Let’s remember that since October 18th, 2019, Chile has been facing protests and riots as a consequence of social injustice and high levels of inequalities. Ongoing protest and manifestations were the cause that COP25 was moved to Madrid, Spain. 

students in front of COP25 displayAs a Chilean, I believe that Chile missed a great opportunity to celebrate COP25 in its territory. As the government mentioned in their website, Chile is facing 7 out of 9 problems of climate change, especially around droughts. Therefore, it is urgent to educate our people regarding climate change, and to make strong regulations that are in favour of people instead of protecting emitters of GHG. As it was well said by Mohamed Adow, Chile is failing to their own people and it is true. The behave of the Chilean authorities at COP25 protecting corporations, was just a reflection of what the Chilean population are facing every single day, and that is one of the reasons why protests keep going on after two months. Chile did not realize that this was not a show off marketing conference, this was about making decisions about the world’s future. 

2020 is the year that countries have to show their National Determined Contributions, and we hope that their contributions allow us to boost climate action at both local and global level, as well as to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The upcoming years are crucial, and it is urgent to work collaboratively with several stakeholders, including countries that are already facing climate change consequences, as well as the big polluters like United States, Russia, India, China, and Brazil. Climate action is needed, and for us that fight climate change COP25 is an opportunity to keep fighting. I am eternally thankful for having the chance to attend COP25, there are tons of lessons learned that I am looking forward to sharing with my community, both in Chile and in Canada. 


Written by Lowine Hill

man in front of climate action posters on wall

 "If not us, who? If not now, when?" Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland 

I had the opportunity to assist to the Development and Climate Days (or D&C Days), this “unconference” event geared at linking the climate discussions taking place in-between the two weeks of COP with development and climate action taking place on the ground. The goal was to brainstorm solutions to the climate-related “wicked problems” of this world, such as disaster resilience, nature-based solutions and gender-responsive financing. Concrete and practical possible solutions emerged from the experience of various practitioners, researchers, policy makers and grassroots organisations representative working on the ground. I must note though that islands and ocean issues were completely absent of these discussions. Regardless, the D&C practitioners have a clear message: we must act NOW. 

Following the D&C days, I attended the second week of COP. COP25 was the last COP before the Paris Agreement comes in force in 2020, and it was off to a rough start. It was supposed to be hosted by Brazil, but the newly-elected and climate denier President Bolsonaro refused to do so. The US, with President Donald Trump officially started the process to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Finally, social movements in Chile, the country who stepped in to preside the event, erupted just weeks before the start of the negotiations. Luckily Spain offered to host but, in the process, many from civil society organisations couldn't afford the change and were not able to participate.

Nevertheless, between the different side events and informative discussions with country delegates, solutions and “how-to” were being shared. With thousands of representatives from the 197 signatories of the UNFCCC, civil societies and indigenous peoples highlighting and sharing their respective experience in addressing some of those “wicked problems” they are facing, the COP25 was bound to be successful. I was particularly interested in following the discussions related to the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) which aim to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate-related hazards, such as extreme weather events and sea-level rise; and to the Gender Action Plan. This COP was the longest one so far; it ended in the afternoon of Sunday December 15, 2019, two days later than originally planned. 

During the event, things didn't go smoothly. Protests were organised inside and outside; more that 300 indigenous peoples, people of color and youths were (quite violently by some accounts) escorted out of the premises as they protested the negotiations process – delegates spending sometime 20min debating on trivialities such as misplaced comas – instead of focusing on finding ways to solve the current climate emergency, as it is now labelled in most discussion circles. And in fact, the outcomes do not reflect the latest scientific information available nor the urgency faced by some nations.

Before participating at COP, I had a somewhat idealised and naïve vision of the negotiations. For instance, it was really surprising that fossil fuel was never mentioned before. It would be logical to think that, with non-renewable fossil fuel being at the core of climate change, this would be the first topic that would be tackled by the discussions. It appears that unlike the World Health Organisation, which has prohibited the tobacco industry to take part in the COP discussions, the UNFCCC has no mechanism in place regarding the involvement of fossil fuel lobby within the process. The fact that Spanish energy giants Endesa and Iberdrola sponsored the meeting, responsible for the majority of Spain’s GHG emissions, illustrate the irony at play. This raises the questions: are we complicit in the final outcome of these failed negotiations by just participating in the event?

Having met and discussed with other observer representatives and some members of the African Group of Negotiators and the SIDS Group, here is my own two takeaway messages of the event:

  1. Money is the main divisive factor. This was highlighted on two occasions: first, countries failed to agree to on the rules for carbon markets – under the article 6 of the Paris Agreement – which signal the disconnect current extremely limited progress and global goals an ambition. Another similar example is the WIM, with countries like the US or Australia blocking any call for additional funding to compensate for climate impacts that SIDS and LDCs for instance, are facing. Allowing funding for the WIM would equal to an admission, from the big polluters, that their (in)action does have an effect on the more at-risk countries and would be an important step toward climate justice. The talks failed to reach consensus for these two points. It seemed that the call for action of local and indigenous communities fell in deaf ears.  
  2. There will be no lasting, transformational change without the consideration of human rights, inequalities and power imbalances: one of the few positive outcomes of this COP is the adoption of a new comprehensive 5-year Gender Action Plan intended to “support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UNFCCC process” (UNFCCC decision 21/CP.22, paragraph 27). This is an important step forward for human rights in general and indigenous peoples’ rights specifically. 

Last but not least, I am extremely grateful of having been given the opportunity to participate at the conference and to meet the amazing people working day and night to bring forward the needs and hopes of the local communities they represent. There is no doubt that what I have learned during the conference will have an important influence on the direction of my research. However, I find myself asking: does the current negotiation system work? To be honest, I am not optimistic regarding any significant changes on climate change policies and debates happening at national and international levels. The aforementioned questions from Hon. Patricia Scotland were on the lips of most participants at the end of the conference. However, I believe that real change happens on the ground and that it is our duty, as future researchers and leaders to support and empower the people who are truly working for transformation.

References

Abreu C. and Henn J. (December 16 2019). Finally saying the F-words at UN climate talks. Climate Home News. Retrieved from https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/12/16/finally-saying-f-words-un-climate-talks/

Evans S. and Gabbatiss J. (December 15 2019). COP25: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Madrid. Carbon Brief. Retrieved from https://www.carbonbrief.org/cop25-key-outcomes-agreed-at-the-un-climate-talks-in-madrid


Written by Isha Rana

COP-25, Was it as Success? 
From the perspective of an observer, a student, an immigrant and a traveler.

I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Conference of Parties in Madrid as a University of Waterloo student delegate. I was one of the 27,000 delegates who attended this mega event on fight against Climate Change, organized by United Nations and hosted by Chile. 

Event Venue, Feria De Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Event Venue, Feria De Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Overview of the Event and Conclusion

This year’s COP had a difficult start with Brazil backing out last year, Chilean government also decided not to host the event due to the country’s difficult circumstances. Considering the current climate crisis and urgent need of hosting this event on the said dates, Spain stepped in and decided to take on the event in Madrid. Despite of the change of venue at the last minute, the event was organized in similar fashion to what was decided. The whole event venue was divided in to two zones – the Green Zone (open to public) and the Blue Zone. The green zone had various events and workshops with a sole agenda to make community more aware about the climate change and its consequences and to showcase how individuals can contribute towards this fight. Blue Zone was more formally structured, and all the negotiations and official side-events were happening in the area. The Blue-Zone was restricted to only the parties and the observers. 

The main events and negotiations of this year’s COP were mainly focused on finalizing the terms of Article-6 of the Paris Agreement by setting some rules for global carbon market. Article-6 promotes “Climate Justice" by putting a price on carbon emissions, in other words, it suggests that the countries which are responsible for emissions must bear the cost of global warming. However, as an observer at COP, I understood that the countries responsible for large scale emissions are the ones who can impact decision making. The one of the reasons, why this year’s talk was unable to reach the consensus and why decisions were pushed to the next year. Many leaders including UN Secretary General said during the conclusion meeting that COP25 was disappointing as the countries failed to showcase their increased ambitions to tackle climate change. Young activist Gretta Thunberg said in her final speech that the annual COPs are truing into opportunities for countries to negotiate loopholes. Listening to these world leaders and young activists, made me realize that counties are far behind from even showing their ambitions towards climate change fight which is supposedly the first and foremost step. Without this ambition, it would be extremely difficult to achieve the goal of allowing 1.5 degree of global temperature rise by 2030. 

My Experience and Key Learnings

As a transport planner, I followed various events related to my research which is about reducing emissions in transport (especially urban freight sector) in Canadian context. The most relevant event I attended was on “Sub-national efforts to Reduce Transport Emissions in North America”. Panellists from various states of US (Minnesota, California and Hawaii) and Canada (Quebec) presented their best practices and current policies in place. 

However, the discussion was mainly focused on reducing emissions in passenger transport mainly by providing public transport and promoting active transport. Focusing only on passenger transport was not at all surprising for me as through my research I already knew that freight is often overlooked especially in North America. However, with increased demand of e-commerce and rising emissions in this sector, I was expecting more events focusing on freight. Another interesting viewpoint, I got from an organisation called “Sail to COP”. About 20 representatives from this organisation were protesting to include international aviation sector in the carbon market. Aviation is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and currently not included in carbon tax system or usually not talked about in these COP negotiations. Some of the other interesting events I attended and briefing of these events are presented below: 

  1. Impact of Climate Change on Job market; this event highlighted some shocking facts and forecasts about the economic impact. One of the panellists highlighted that by 2030, world will lose 2.2% of its total working time (~18 million jobs) to climate change. 
  2. Gender Responsive Climate Actions; this event was presented by women activists from all across the globe. This event highlighted that due to security and safety reasons women tend to emit more emissions than men and that there is a need to link women safety with climate change.
  3. Community Resilience Partnership Program by Asian Development Bank; in this event ADB highlighted the need to increase participation of local communities in climate action. In this event ADB also committed that in next 10 years the focus of their investment ($80 million) will be towards climate change mitigation and adaptation in Asian & Pacific counties which will target poor and vulnerable people.
  4. Fashion Industry for Climate Change Charter, from COP24 to COP25; this event highlighted interesting facts about fast fashion business models and how they promote over consumerism and over consumption.

Panel talking about Gender Responsive Climate Action

Panel talking about Gender Responsive Climate Action 

Attending these side events gave me the impression that global researchers and policy makers are well aware of the scientific facts and the forecasts of climate change impacts. However, I found various gaps in most of these discussions in terms of implementation strategies and laying out strict timelines. 

Key Takeaway

Isha in front of COP25 signIndian Pavilion at COP25

I am an immigrant from India, which has a huge coastline, diverse geography and vast population. I am worried about the impact my country and several others in the similar situation, might face due to climate change and sea level-rise. I am also a travel and have just started to explore parts of the world, I am worried that I might not get to experience this beautiful world.  During my time at COP25, I witnessed two very different sides of the event, one from global leaders’ perspective who are optimistic and are working on their own pace, second, from younger generation’s perspective, who are scared and disappointed and are demanding Climate Action and Climate Justice Now. Seeing all the efforts from the organizers, researcher, activities and young protesters, made one thing very clear to me that globally we more aware of the issue, the only thing missing is our increased ambition to fight climate change together.