UWCSD’s First Day at COP 19!

Today, Monday November 11th, 2013, was a monumental moment for the University of Waterloo Coalition for Sustainable Development. Six delegates representing the University of Waterloo entered into the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland for the first time, realizing the vision that UWCSD has developed over the past two months – to bring youth voice on climate change to the global stage at COP 19.

During the opening proceedings of COP 19, the international political community conveyed the importance of establishing momentum to combat climate change. Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC stated that countries need to “stay focused and produce positive results.” However, her commitment to participating as keynote in the Coal and Climate Summit has not been associated with such ideals in the eyes of civil society. Next, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairperson of the IPCC,  provided the scientific context for the climate negotiations by emphasizing the fact that we are “trending towards substantial increase in temperature across the globe” and that Arctic sheets and glacier volume will continue to sink, and that oceans and sea level will continue to rise, as “climate change will impact the carbon cycle and uptake of carbon in the ocean.”  This not only demonstrates the need for adaptation, but also stresses the significance of acting on ambitious mitigation plans.

The tone of urgency was cemented by the lead climate negotiator of the Philippines, Nadarev Saño. “If not us then who, if not here then where, if not now then when?”, underscored his strong desire for action, and he stated that “we can stop this madness”, demonstrating  positivity in the face of this global challenge. It was a powerful moment to hear about his personal experiences and familial impact, from a human and emotional perspective, due to the recent Typhoon Haiyan. To end, he eloquently and courageously  presented his plans for fasting for the duration of the conference, to ensure consensus in responding to climate change.

Civil society has also played a role to develop momentum in defining COP 19 as a  path towards the 2015 global agreement in Paris, which is expected to be a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.  Areas of interest emphasized  by civil society include climate public finance, adaptation (creation of a loss and damage mechanism), technology transfer,  and intergenerational equity. Another important focus that was highlighted was the need for milestones to ensure short term action as well as long term resilience.

Within the first day, our UWCSD team has contributed to  key conversations, developed connections with individuals from around the world, and made our opinions heard within the negotiations.  Andrew Wong was elected by YOUNGO, a youth NGO participating in the UNFCCC process, to deliver a powerful and influential intervention speech in response to current agenda  negotiations within the meetings of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol . A strong message was conveyed that we should put politics aside, and foster an environment of unanimous cooperation and consensus, human to human. In addition to supporting Andrew’s speech, Melanie Klein attended an inspiring side event put on by the Third World Network, looking into what we should expect from COP 19. Our delegation also assumed responsibility in the long time tradition of awarding the Fossil of the Day Award. The Master of Ceremonies was our very own delegate, Kai Reimer- Watts, who lead a satirical skit to shame and blame the poorly performing Australia, for not committing to long-term climate financing. A “Ray of Solidarity” award was also given to the Philippines for their courage and strength demonstrated this morning. Melissa Gerrard and Puninda Singh were part of an international team that created an informative and humorous rhetoric around the fossil nominee for presentation of the award, which is run daily by Climate Action Network.  Melissa and Anand Balram also had the opportunity to engage the audience during the award ceremonies.

The entire team is excited for the days to come, and looks forward to continuing to build connections, engage in the environmental governance process, and have our voices heard in these negotiations!

Authors: Melissa Gerrard, Melanie Klein & Puninda Singh

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The UWCSD always wants to hear your opinions, and is committed to keeping you up-to-date on the climate negotiations! Please connect with us over facebook, email (info.uwcsd@gmail.com) and twitter (@UWCSD, #UWatCOP).

The University of Waterloo Coalition for Sustainable Development is accredited through Climate Action Network Canada, as a subsidiary of Climate Action Network International.

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