Looking back at my experience at COP and looking back at the outcome of Durban COP17 are two different things for me.
Immediately after the final plenary (open negotiations) of COP where everything was concluded at 5:30am two days after the scheduled end, I went home and stayed up thinking about what had just happened after a really dramatic end to negotiations. I saw a Venezuelan negotiator jump on a table and demand the floor fighting with the chair; I saw an impromptu break in formal negotiations for the top negotiators of the world’s leaders break into a huddle to discuss their response to climate change as the rest of the room stood around them; I saw apparently a ‘historic deal’ being ‘agreed upon’.
If I had written my thoughts immediately after the talks in the late morning then I they would have been very different to what I think now. I was really angry and felt powerless at the end of the negotiations. It certainly felt that the gavel that the chair was hammering down was just part of an auction for nations’ survival. We could see nations say that the deals being made will lead to 4 C warming and we talk about giving more funds instead of reducing emissions significantly. That really made me feel a sense of outrage. But as time passed and I have had a chance to relax a little and reflect a bit more thoroughly, I am a bit more positive that things are moving forward in terms of a new KP and some sort of structure for the next COP already agreed upon.
More interestingly I think the way that I have started to reflect on COP has not been purely what was agreed by nations around the world but by what else has been achieved here in Durban.
Once again, the international youth movement and civil society grew and made their voice heard. There was a line in the sand moment on the second last day where an unprecedented protest inside the UN took place that changed the mood of negotiations and sparked a sense of urgency into proceedings at last. This was complimented by some dramatic scenes in negotiations as youth turned their back on Canada, overtook the US negotiator and grabbed the voice of the people of USA back from an outdated and insensitive negotiator and the youth took over plenary and demanded that action be taken in a fantastic speech from YOUNGO.
However, the feelings of injustice have not entirely disappeared and the way that some nations’ views are seen as being on the fringe of the negotiations is outrageous. Especially when those nations are simply asking for others to stop destroying their future as it stands. I don’t like how we compromise with the worst negotiators and polluters but not those who are shouting for justice. I don’t like any of it but I still see UNFCCC as being the only thing that brings all these countries together to recognize and try and (incrementally) find climate solutions. I also so that these solutions and this progress is slow and difficult. But I also work at a grassroots level in Scotland trying to create more sustainable behaviour change. And that is also slow and difficult. And I feel the same frustrations in this work, just as I do at the UN. We all need to concentrate on finding these solutions.
Over the past weeks and months with UKYCC I have had an amazing experience. I feel that I have spent my time doing the most important thing that I possibly could. The progress is not as fast as I would like but we have so much momentum just now and this experience has galvanised my belief that I should spend the rest of my time and work dedicated towards climate change.
Originally published here.