AASHE Student Diary Series: Live from COP 17
Eleven students from Dickinson College (PA) blog live from South Africa in this installment of the AASHE Bulletin Sustainability Student Diary series. The students are participants in the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The observations and interviews below are republished from the Dickinson to Durban blog. AASHE welcomes questions and invites feedback on each Sustainability Student Diary entry. Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 27: Welcome to Dickinson College’s Global Climate Change Africa Mosaic Blog! We are eleven students and three faculty members who have been engaged in a semester of intensive study and research about global climate change. On November 25 we travel to Durban, South Africa to participate in COP 17 to conduct research on the negotiations and volunteer with the Makaphutu Children’s Trust. While in South Africa we will blog about our research, observations of the conference, and our service project. We invite your comments...
Elena Capaldi, November 28: Durban, South Africa
It’s 1:30 and I’ve grabbed a few minutes this afternoon to post on my initial reactions to the conference. For one: I am very overwhelmed. We arrived at the center this morning around 9:30 after a stressful check-in/security. We then entered the ICC building and received incredibly long addendum and programs for the days events. Immediately, I wanted to attend every event—my focus however is on energy and emissions of urban areas and sustainable development, so I knew that in general I should attend events in that vein. I went with a small group of Dickinson students to just such event presented by the organization Helio International, a group “focusing on methodology and a series of indicators that can be used to check how well national energy policies are contributing to ecodevelopment under fluctuating climatic conditions.” Despite the intimidating explanation of their work, I managed to get quite a lot out of the lecture and discussion.
The aspect of this organization’s work which impressed me the most was their creation of a formula that analyzed the sustainable and unsustainable practices of a country, taking into account 24 “indicators,” including the most simple and concrete of data (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) to complex data (i.e. investment assets) of a given country. With my research I found the complexity of looking at various “indicators” - almost impossible for a variety of reasons, and therefore found Helio’s work incredibly fascinating in it’s depth and clarity...(Read more)
Emily Bowie, November 28: Disney or Durban? First Day Reflections
I feel like I’m at Disney. The flora is pretty much the same, it’s hot and sticky, I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get to interesting events on time, there’s people everywhere talking in languages I don’t know, and I’m fenced in an area that is beautifully constructed and impeccably clean. There are a few important differences of course, there are no children, everyone is dressed up and important, and there are screens at every corner playing loud and live footage of the internal conference that we cannot attend...
I listened to presentations by Bill Breed of USAID, Dan Irwim of NASA and Hussein Farah of RCMRD about the Earth observation system SERVIR and how its satellite observations, ground based data, mapping information and forecast models are used to monitor and improve responses to natural disasters as well as provide information for policy makers. Farah explained how this program has helped East African countries by gathering and analyzing data useful for policy making, designing a famine early warning system and mapping floods for post-disaster response systems....(Read more)
Sam Parker, November 29: The 'Yutes'
Vinny Gambini: It is possible that the two yutes…
Judge Chamberlain Haller: …Ah, the two what? Uh… uh, what was that word?
VG: Uh… what word?
JCH: Two what?
JCH: Uh… did you say ‘yutes’?
VG: Yeah, two yutes.
JCH: What is a yute?
VG: [beat] Oh, excuse me, your honor…[exaggerated] Two YOUTHS.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Yesterday I was able to solidify my focus for this conference, the “yutes.” Within the COP conferences there are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these NGOs are then divided into smaller groups one of which being the YOUNGOs or youth NGOs. These are some of the most interesting people to talk with. They are some of the most driven, opinionated and knowledgeable. They know what they are talking about and what they would like to see happen.
I was able to be a part of a couple of interviews on November 28 with delegates from different YOUNGO organizations from different countries and I was blown away by the people I talked with. They all talked about the influence and power that the YOUNGOs have gained and are gaining in the delegations. During COP16 in Cancun, the YOUNGOs were able to claim the first “victory,” they were able to strongly influence and change Article 6 of the Cancun Accord. This is just the beginning for these groups. These young people know that they are the future and are not ready to sit by and let governments make short sighted decisions for their future.
Maggie Rees, November 29: Welcome to Durban - A World of Uncertainty
Twenty thousand people, 75 degrees, interviews, meetings and more meetings. Durban is certainly overwhelming and exciting. It’s so funny how we are right in the middle of all the action and still have no idea what’s actually going on. Times like these you realize how essential press briefings are. Yesterday I attended a press briefing by Climate Action Network International (CAN). Along with CAN, Oxfam, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) International and the Union of Concerned Scientists were in attendance. Discussed were the main concerns for this years COP.
Tim Gore, from Oxfam, brought up the fretfulness of food production, particularly in Africa and areas such as Afghanistan. With an increase in extreme weather events, flooding poses a severe problem for food production. Cattle are dying, crops are not sustaining and food cannot be produced. Just two nights ago in Durban, there were fatalities due to excessive flooding.
Along with this, Tasneem Essop from WWF International described her thoughts about what needs to be accomplished in Durban this year. Tasneem is mostly hoping for certainty: certainty in actions, a timeline, finances, etc. With risk of losing the Kyoto Protocol, it is essential to have assurance in a next move for climate negotiations. A legally binding agreement with a strong timeline is what it would take. Something with assured finances, like the Green Climate Fund, is necessary. However, it needs to be known where the money is coming from, how much money there is, and what it will be used for. Loopholes need to be eliminated. Countries should not be able to weasel their way out of agreements or emission reductions. If all else fails, an adaptations committee is essential. Before it is too late, countries need proper adaptation strategies...(Read More)
Sam Pollan, November 30: Who Knew a Win-Win Situation Could Have Losers?
REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, has been a major theme for several years in international negotiations. On the surface, REDD appears to be a very straightforward, practical method for climate change mitigation. After the first full day of the conference, it appeared that this was the case. I interviewed Dr. Glenn Bush of the Woods Hole Research Center. Dr. Bush is an environmental economist who is examining economic and equity issues associated with REDD projects. When asked about the possibility of opposition to REDD in negotiations, he said that REDD is essentially a win-win situation and should see significant progress during the coming weeks...
At the end of day one, REDD discussions outside of the plenary appeared very optimistic. Day two, however, marked a notable change in tone. I attended a side event on enforcement and anti-corruption measures for REDD in the Hex River Room. The discussions brought to light the rampant corruption, fraud and organized crime associated with illegal logging. In Indonesia, 20 percent of all deforestation was determined to be done illegally in areas that were either protected or had restricted access. Andrea Johnson, who I will be interviewing in the next few days, noted three areas that need to be addressed for a successful implementation of REDD: law enforcement is essential for equity and success, building enforcement institutions, and including civil society in anti-corruption measures. These issues have a relatively quick fix with long-term social benefits and I found it interesting that none of my earlier interviews addressed this problem...(Read More)
Anna McGinn, November 30: Oh the U.S.
As expected, it seems that countries are already dividing on key issues. U.S. negotiators confirm that the [country] will continue to stay away from Kyoto. Canada has also stated that they will not sign on to a second commitment period. While these countries are trying to leave Kyoto behind, most of the delegates and NGO representative I have talked to from low emitting countries, least developed countries (LDCs), and the most vulnerable countries say that it is absolutely imperative that a second commitment period to Kyoto is agreed upon. A representative from WWF Madagascar stressed the importance of a second commitment period throughout our discussion. It seems unlikely that something binding will be agreed upon at this point, but it is still early in the negotiations...
Last night, I rode the bus with a mayor from Nigeria who touched on how problematic it is that the U.S. is not playing a larger role. He directly said to me that my country is causing the problem and that solutions need to come from within. The people of the U.S. need to solve the problem. Again, it came up that U.S. domestic politics need to transcend their party boundaries and see other countries’ points of view. I welcomed this conversation because it is refreshing to hear other delegations’ opinions of the U.S. in an open manner...(Read more)
Claire Tighe, November 30: AOSIS Hopes for the Best
After a few interviews here at the COP 17, one in particular with a member of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) who hails from Palau in the Pacific Islands, I’ve gathered a bit of information on the outcomes that the AOSIS bloc is looking for here at COP:
A legally-binding second five-year commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
Passing of the Green Climate Fund, which will fund the small islands mitigation and adaptation efforts.
These two issues are amongst the most pertinent for this particular COP. However, other “smaller” topics are also on the negotiating table. These include adaptation concerns, how to make REDD (+) work, and facilitating technology transfer...(Read more)
Editors Note: Keep checking the Dickinson to Durban blog for updated posts. You can also join a conversation with Dickinson College students who will be sharing their observations of the conference on Wednesday, December 7 at noon Eastern. Join via Skype at: DickinsonCOP17. Please RSVP to Lindsey Lyons at email@example.com with your Skype name to be included in the conversation.
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