How to survive [thrive in] COP21 with [no sleep] [so many events] [climate heroes all around you]! Bracket pun intended.

I just can’t stop smiling.

I don’t know if it’s the collective desire at COP21 for an agreement to address climate change (finally!)… or the endless cups of coffee… or this amazing Waterloo team I am so fortunate to be a part of. Change is – literally – in the air!

When I arrived at the conference grounds in Le Bourget, I had to pinch myself! What was I doing at a United Nations’ conference on climate change?! I am so honoured to witness this moment in history.

University of Waterloo delegates Dominique, Sarah, and Rahul enter COP21!

To be honest, it is overwhelming. There are many moving parts: negotiations, side events, press conferences, new partnerships and funding announcements, civil society actions, thousands of exhibits, and climate heroes, like Al Gore and Naomi Klein just causally walking right by you!!

So, as I work my way through this madness, I wanted to share with you my top strategies to survive [thrive in] COP21 with [no sleep] [so many events] [climate heroes all around you]! Bracket pun intended.

Are you also confused about all the craziness that is going on at COP21? Hopefully this list will help you too!

  1. Connect with networks… like YOUNGO!

On the very first day at COP, I went with my colleague Dominique Souris, who also went to COP19, to the first YOUNGO meeting. YOUNGO is incredible. All youth (at home and here) can be part of this movement. Here they have the opportunity to address the negotiating parties and submit official positions. They also organize the Conference of Youth (COY) before the conference and Young and Future Generations Day during the conference (today!). On the first day I joined the adaptation working group to better understand the youth perspective on adaptation, which is Article 4 in the official text.

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YOUNGO Adaptation Working Group led by Donald Bambara, Burkina Faso (far left).

  1. Make friends!

Meet as many people as possible and share your ideas, resources, passions, and inside scoop about all the crazy events happening around you!

Here I am with a new friend, Indy, listening to COP21’s opening ceremony

  1. READ READ READ and watch YouTube

The internet is your best friend here. Rahul Mehta posted a great blog yesterday, high-lighting some great resources to check out.

  1. Follow the daily TCK

Didn’t catch what happened yesterday? It’s hard to stay on top of it all! On Tuesday, I starting going to the Daily Tck (pronounced “tick”) so I could hear about the previous day’s top highlights. You can sign up to get daily emails about new announcements, like Bill Gate’s Breakthrough Energy Coalition, or current negotiation hot items, like the potential removal of human rights from the text.

  1. Dive into the text – for those who dare!

As Ari Freeman states, “The fate of the world lies in between brackets.” Our future is currently in the hands of over 1000 brackets. These bracket include the different options that are currently being negotiated by over 190 countries by CONSENSUS! Think about how hard decision-making is in some group projects. This editing process is like a brutal group project on steroids! Some negotiations are open for all accredited delegates and some are closed. You can screen them online, though! We attend Canadian briefs daily to get updates but you can also use amazing online resources to follow text updates.

  1. Get out of your comfort zone

I feel pretty comfortable talking about climate change… but on camera? No thanks! What if I can’t think of a super badass comment? What if I say something wrong? On Sunday night, with little sleep the night before, I somehow ended up at a UNDP event focusing on The Climate Vulnerable Forum’s #1o5C Campaign.

Some people might not realize that the 2°C actually isn’t set in stone. A more aggressive target of below 1.5°C is critical for humanity. Over 100 countries are now demanding this target.

When UNDP staff asked for an interview, at first I said, “BAH NO WAY!! I can’t say anything articulate!” But another part of me thought, “You got this Alex. It’s important. Go for it!” I am proud I put myself out there because we all need to do our part to mobilize an effort to protect vulnerable countries from climate change. You can watch the video here.

  1. Have fun and have hope.

In the next two weeks you will find yourself inspired, motivated, scared, overwhelmed, exhausted… and every other emotion you can image. Remember to enjoy this process and have hope. I want to leave you with the recent words of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Earth Guardians. Before thousands of viewers worldwide and Ms. Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, he said, “Today the change starts. Whatever happens today will only be carried out in the fire of the people.”

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Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians.

Most importantly, the best strategy for COP21 is to remember that these negotiations are more than the people here in Paris and the decisions that are going to be made. They are about what each and every one of us can do in our own lives to live carbon neutral lives, demand more from our leaders, and recognize this pivotal moment where we decide the fate of humanity.

This piece was written by Alexandra Graham

Alex is currently completing her Master of Environmental Studies within the School of Planning. As part of the UW COP21 delegation, Alex hopes to make research connections and investigate innovative ways cities can mitigate and adapt to climate change, while engaging the Waterloo community in the negotiation experience.


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