It is Day Five at the UN International Climate Negotiations here in Warsaw, Poland, and I have not felt truly frustrated in the process until this moment. Earlier this morning, I tried to attend an SBI Informal Consultation on National Adaptation Plans that was noted as open to Parties and Observers on the official COP schedule. As I sat in the meeting room waiting for Party members and observers to file in and take their seats, I felt a mounting sense of anticipation and excitement. There were delegates from many countries present of which I was interested in hearing their opinions and hopefully connecting with after the meeting. For context, my interests lie within the intersection of climate change science and governance, particularly as it relates to adaptation and resilience within communities, and effective coastal and marine resource management. However, as they called the meeting to order, the facilitator noted that this would be a closed meeting, and asked all individuals not affiliated with a Party to leave the room.
My first reaction was sincere disappointment – I was truly looking forward to the content that was to be discussed in that meeting. My second reaction was frustration and a feeling of helplessness. I am attending the COP with an academic delegation through the University of Waterloo, and our main objectives this week were to immerse ourselves in the process of the negotiations and engage in conversations with delegates from around the world to bring our opinions to the table. In this moment, I felt that my ability and opportunity to do so was being limited.
How are youth and civil society observers expected to participate in an active and informed manner throughout this negotiation process, if they are not even allowed the opportunity to enter into a meeting of this sort? I know that I am not the first or only to have had this happen to them, thus my situation is in no way unique. In fact, I am one of the lucky youth who has the opportunity to attend and engage in COP 19, when there are many who did not receive accreditation or who have been de-badged, and for this opportunity, I am overwhelmingly grateful. I can also appreciate the need to maintain confidentiality within a meeting and develop a closed space for the delegates to voice their opinions. However, I still can not help but feel a sense of frustration over what happened.
In an ideal world, I would hope that no individual ever feels marginalized, no voice ever gets silenced, and no opportunity for learning is ever lost throughout this negotiation process. This is not the current state, however it is a goal that we should be striving towards.
Author: Melissa Gerrard