CAN’s strategy session – An overwhelming first day

The Bangkok Climate Change Conference started off with a pre-briefing on Monday, a day prior to the commencement of continuous negotiations. With the choice of attending either Climate Action Network’s (CAN) or YOUNGO’s (Youth NGOs) Strategy Session, I was faced with a dilemma. This was the first time I was attending a conference of any kind, and I did not know how to decide between the two pre-briefings. The night before, over some of the more questionable street-side drinks Bangkok’s Khao San Road had to offer, the MYD gang had a casual conversation regarding the differences between CAN and YOUNGO’s approaches. Buddies Nacha and Mike gave us their point of view, amassed from their experiences at COP22 and COP23 respectively, after which I decided to attend CAN’s session.

Was I afraid of attending a serious climate change pre-conference strategy session? Yes. Did I feel out of place even before the meeting began? Yes. Did my nervous feelings at all hamper my excitement to learn? Yes. To be honest, it was a little thrilling to be in a room filled with people who mean business, people who have been in this field for years. However I couldn’t help but feel intimidated at my lack of knowledge and experience, compared to almost everyone else in the room, even after reading up on relevant materials. Despite that, I looked forward to learning about CAN and their agenda at SB48-2.

The setting of the CAN strategy session

The six hour long meeting began with an introduction to CAN and their agenda for the day, which included among others; their mission at Bangkok, COP24 preparations and scenarios, as well as a heavy accentuation on both finance and robust implementation guidelines. These are just a few key elements among many in their prepared agenda. The session comprised of presentations that were delivered by their respective coordinators. It was incredibly technical and admittedly, I struggled to keep up in the beginning, and felt like I was drowning in abbreviations, agenda numbers and meeting timings. I wish I could say that I managed to keep up as the hours progressed, but truth be told, I barely stayed afloat, despite staying focused and taking notes.

Something that piqued my interest however, in the otherwise dry meeting, was when Harjeet Singh of ActionAid spoke up against the inconsistencies in a fellow CAN member’s presentation regarding the status of certain countries and groups in relations to CAN’s position. The presentation included a small list of countries highlighted in either green, yellow or red to illustrate their deliverance on the respective country’s NDCs. Harjeet, an advocate of Loss and Damage (L&D), especially against vulnerable communities, stood his ground and made sure he was heard in the room predominantly occupied by Global North representatives, who, in my opinion, tried to steer the conversation away from the point Harjeet was trying to make: What exactly was the criteria used to determine which country was given a green (good position on NDCs) or red (did not deliver on their NDCs). As a fellow Global South representative, it was inspiring to watch Harjeet demand attention on a predominantly global south issue that otherwise, would have been skipped over or would have been lost among the other issues that were perceived as more important.

As the strategy session came to an end, I realised that while it was not an easy transition for me, as a beginner, into the world of negotiations, I did learn more about CAN, their role in SB48-2, and their plans for COP. It was an interesting and incredibly eye-opening session that introduced me to the reality of these climate conferences. I also became aware of the amazing effort that goes on behind organizing CAN, and the work put in by the intelligent CAN members to prepare for SB48-2 and COP24. Overall, while it was an overwhelming session, I am grateful to have been a part of it as I did learn loads, and met many amazing people.

Written by: Abirami Baskaran

Edited by: Jasmin Irisha

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