The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual meeting that brings together representative parties to discuss, negotiate and convene to establish international agreements for addressing climate change. The procedures here at COP are very complex. It’s a process which fuses international negotiations, working groups, civil society, government delegations, IPCC secretariats, security guards, IT technicians, students, youth, and young professionals. To make matters even more kerfuffled, the jargon used in this space can take a while to wrap your head around. ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group of Durban), NAMAs, NAP, RE & EE, CMP, SBSTA, AOSIS are just a few to get you started. Better understanding these acronyms is a fundamental necessity if we are truly desiring to make use of this COP process. By creating transparency in the agenda and ensuring the process is accessible through understanding is crucial. Wouldn’t this be a fundamental component, not to mention a logical idea, if we have to pass on the burdens created by our collective choices and pass this crisis on to future generations whom will be responsible for reversing the damage? Should we not give youth and future generations a chance to create change by developing a language and process that is easy to comprehend?
The complexity of the process of COPs create a difficult environment for which people are able to fully grasp the issues in discussion. Civil society groups, government briefings, as well as press releases create great opportunities for following and better understanding the negotiations. A substantial amount of COP documents are available, as well as daily news articles such as ECO released by CAN International. Strategic planning becomes a fundamental component in understanding the process – “dividing and specializing” and then sharing information on specific developments. Perhaps you may be interested in following REDD or developments of CDM. This focus may be a bit necessary to start wrapping your head around what this jargon actually really means – but then you need to start deciphering the details embedded within the policy texts, scientific facts, and other important factors like understanding the socio-political influences on them. How are we measuring and quantifying greenhouse gas emissions? What is counted in emissions reductions and what is left out of the discussion? What qualifies as an adaptation or a mitigation project?
So what does this mean for students in Canada, and at Waterloo? Exposing students to some of the ways that international politics work; as well as integrating environmental acronyms into the education system may be a stepping stone into enhancing literacy, as suggested by Vanessa Schweizer, advisor of UWCSD. A glossary has been prepared by COP UNFCCC for greater clarity. Though integrating it into the education system has worked for such issues such as the periodic table of elements in chemistry, I think I must admit that I would fail chemistry 101 miserably. Climate literacy is going to be integral should we want to give future generations a chance. Perhaps we can introduce children to environmental issues an earlier age, and then build on that through high schooling. Environmental issues and climate change can be better integrated into a variety of disciplines within academia such as policy, engineering, planning. We can also integrate environmentalism into the culture by promoting local food, public/green transportation, and better infrastructure planning… And, finally Canada can do a better job at covering environmental issues in the media. We need to ease the jargon associated with some of these issues to make climate change relevant to the public. When people hear of COP do they really know what we’re talking about? Addressing climate change will need to be relevant to people’s everyday livelihoods should we stand a chance in this battle.
Author: Melanie Klein
Photo Credit: Mother Nature Network