What I wish knew before going to COP22

What I wish knew before going to COP22 (and for other conferences, summits, forums really)

Being at COP22 has been a humbling and impactful experience. I have exponentially expanded my knowledge on climate issues, governance and policy frameworks, what action means, and more.  I hope to apply this through research, practice, and knowledge exchange. But perhaps the more significant experiential learning has happened on the meta level. By that, I mean realizing that I wish I knew certain things before having gone (which of course I know I couldn’t actually know before going). I am probably not making sense anymore so I’ll shift my focus on articulating what I wish I knew and things I hope to apply moving forward;


  1. Talk to people, present ideas, and engage in meaningful knowledge exchange. You will always expand your perspective and find gaps you can help fill through your individual contributions. It can be daunting – believe me, and I completely understand, because I’m someone who admittedly takes time to get comfortable around new people. And it can be even scarier if the person you want to talk to is an advisor for the White House or the Director of Negotiations for Canada. But that’s what Kayla Hardie (UW delegate in physics and computer science), Dominique Souris (UW student and delegate with Seychelles island) and myself have had the opportunity of doing. We talked to Dan Kammen who’s a prominent professor of energy globally and who’s advised leadership in the US on a number of subject matters, and the Director of Negotiations from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Cristina Paradiso, among others. Kayla even pitched her small scale and open source energy invention to a number of parties and delegates and has received e-mails back from people from Uganda, and South Asian countries. Every time, it has supported our view of how we’d like to contribute to climate change and other interlinked issues. You’d be surprised how often people are willing to talk to you, no matter how high profile or busy they may be!


  1. It would be extremely beneficial for the University of Waterloo to form connection with youth working groups to support youth climate efforts at COP and beyond. It’s been absolutely inspiring seeing the youth groups systematically working together to raise awareness and tackle issues at the global scale. At COP, young people, representing a wide variety of stakeholders, meet daily under the umbrella YOUNGO (Youth Non-Governmental Organization) to collaborate. Each meeting is an opportunity to raise climate issues and to discuss conference progress. Youth organizations then break up and include adaptation, loss and damage, mitigation, health, gender and many more. They work together to draft policy interventions and briefing which are submitted to the climate secretariat and can go to influence decisions made on the bigger scale. Furthermore, student involvement with the youth working groups would support experiential learning, contributions to global climate issues, and an opportunity to form connections for further COP and climate governance involvement.


  1. Learn the issues, actually look into the policy frameworks, and at least know how Canada is contributing. I know this can be super technical but this will allow you to follow the talks which again get super procedural. In addition, at many of the stakeholder consultation meetings, there’s opportunity for observers to ask questions, that get discussed by COP organizers. Having the necessary background information will help you formulate meaningful questions that can lead to meaningful discussions at side events or get posed to the climate secretariat on behalf of stakeholder groups like YOUNGO or RINGO (Research Interest Non-Governmental Organization). This does have impact!


  1. Lastly, you’ve learned a lot and it is your responsibility to share that knowledge with your local community, and in everyday conversations. It is about local empowerment and public awareness because it is at that scale we act and shift societal mindsets.

This piece was written by Hadi El-Shayeb
Hadi is a fourth year Planning student, specializing in urban design at the University of Waterloo. His interest is on design for climate change adaptation and he’s worked on two islands cities research projects including Charlottetown, PEI, and Tobago in the Caribbean’s. He also enjoys long runs on trails.


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