I am pleased to report that the first day of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate negotiations at SB48 Bangkok, and also my first time at a major international climate change conference, was an enjoyable experience.
After attending the Youth Constituency to UNFCCC (YOUNGO) daily meeting in the morning, I participated in their Women and Gender Working Group, as I am more keen towards human rights especially gender equality, and so I was extremely pleased to have been able to join a working group and contribute to a cause that was important to me. The lovely Fatou Jeng of YOUNGO explained to me about the activities and stances of the Women and Gender working group, and how we will be coordinating with the Women & Gender Constituency (WGC). Working alongside the fantastic women and men of the WGC was an aim of mine ever since reading the WGC website prior to attending SB48 Bangkok. It was exciting that my aim was about to become reality.
As a first time attendee of UNFCCC conferences, I wanted to attend multiple working groups on the first day to figure out which issues piqued my interest. I also wanted to get exposed to new working group topics that I previously have not considered joining. Hence I attended CAN’s Loss and Damage (L&D) working group, headed by none other that Harjeet Singh of ActionAid. An informative hour later, despite being an interesting issue, I was not particularly swayed into joining it. Next, I attended the human rights working group coordinated by the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), which was chaired by senior attorney, Sebastien Duyck. Listening to Sebastien talk to the group about CIEL’s efforts in relations to human rights and climate change, it was clear that this was where his passion lied. I heard the earnestness in his voice, the determination to make sure human rights did not get buried under the Bangkok text negotiations, and the sheer resolute to make sure the group built on outreach and increased public narrative in order to get the word out: that human rights is a fundamental aspect in combating climate change. Considering it was a topic of my interest, and it was a captivating session by Seb, I decided to follow the issue and join the working group throughout the duration of SB48 Bangkok to further explore the human rights issue from a law perspective.
YOUNGO also organized a human rights working group towards the end of the day, at which I was also present. It was another great session that I enjoyed being a part of, and will continue to follow through during SB48.
Other than working groups, I also caught the tail end of the official opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference Additional sessions of the subsidiary bodies, live streamed in a separate conference room as the room in which it was held was full. Subsequently, I also was present for the beginning of the SBSTA plenary. It was such an exciting experience to be able to watch and be a part of these events.
Later on in the afternoon, my hungry and mentally exhausted self attended the negotiations of the SBSTA contact group on matters relating to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It was my first time at a UNFCCC negotiation session, and although I was new to the game, just an amateur in a room filled with major players, it somehow felt empowering just to share the conference room with the esteemed country negotiators and the chairs, The negotiation session was, for lack of better word, incredibly cool. However, I had to leave after 30 minutes due to the other-worldly sounds my empty stomach was making. Rather than embarrass myself by drawing attention to the whale call being demonstrated by my stomach, I decided to leave.
Another great session I had later was not a working group or a negotiation, but it was when myself and some of the MYD members were introduced to fellow youth and COP expert Neoka Naidoo. Right off the bat after a round of introductions, the bubbly Neoka delved into an explanation about UNFCCC, COP, CMA and CMP, complete with a drawn mind map and a excerpt regarding the Paris Agreement from a book. The short session with Neoka was incredibly useful as she explained the UNFCCC in a succinct and clear way, making it easy for me to understand.
Day one of the SB48 Bangkok conference ended with a reflection of the day by each MYD member. Gathered in a circle on the comfortable sofas of the UN ESCAP floor, we each took a couple of minutes to share our activities of the day, on whether our expectations were met, and our plans for the following day. It was a lovely bonding session between the MYD gang as we all got caught up on each others’ plans and interest.
Written by: Abirami Baskaran
Edited by: Shaqib Shahril