4 Things I Learnt from COP21

First time attending an United Nation Conference, first time standing in Europe, first time meeting the Malaysian Conference of Parties (COP) Delegation, first time joining a large scale of climate civil disobedience. So many more new experiences that make my 19 days in Paris an unforgettable journey. I would like to share my first COP experience with 4 things that I have learnt/gained:

  1. The difference between rich and poor countries
    I was flabbergasted when I heard about how much the allowance that the youth from an American NGO get while some Global South scholarship recipients are still starving during COP21 because they did not get their stipend on time. It is sad to hear that the gap between the developed countries and developing countries are not only present on the negotiation table, but also at the youth level. Many of the Global North youths are so privileged that they do not understand the struggle of the Global South youths to even fly to Paris.
  2. Negotiator’s life is not easier
    I thought being a good negotiator is lucky because he/she can travel to overseas attending UNFCCC meetings. After tracking the Malaysia’s Head of Delegation and observing the negotiations for 2 weeks, I comprehended that being a true hero is not easy. Besides being knowledgeable and diplomatic, our national delegates need to be good at preparing food (tight budget), good at writing an intervention (to create impact), patient enough to explain the situation to high-level officers and amateur like me and on top of everything, have high resistance against starvation and lack of sleep (meeting from 9am to 12am is normal). Please give a round of applause to our national delegates!

    MYD huddle to get a debrief from Malaysian Negotiator after a midnight session

    MYD huddle to get a debrief from Malaysian Negotiator after a midnight session

  3. UNFCCC COP processes is NOT that difficult
    I was lucky to be able to witness the negotiation process and to engage with our national delegates. From being confused about simple things (like the difference between spin-off groups, informal-informals and contact groups) to being able to understand the text and negotiations, I have learnt so much more about the process of producing an universal agreement especially from the people in COP21.  The main reason is that I am forced to do research and find ways to understand new things that I am not familiar with. If I do not do so, it will be very hard for me to catch up and be on the same track with the others. Next, talking to different people and getting to know different perspectives and views on a single topic is much more interesting than a boring thousand-word article.
  4. How different is the atmosphere in and out of COP21 venue
    I thought the Parc des Expositions (COP21 venue) was considered pretty lively as people were bustling, many colourful animals decorations were set up and a lot of big actions/movements by the civil society members in it. However, this impression was totally changed when I visited the Climate Action Zone and the Climate Generation Zone. Both of these zones do not require accreditation to enter, it is therefore packed with people from NGO and are passionate about climate movement. Both are energetic and motivating. I then labelled the Parc des Expositions, the venue for COP21, as solemn, formal and boring.

    Climate Generation Zone

    Climate Generation Zone

    Written by Elaine

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