Preparation to attend the year’s biggest climate negotiations, the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) started six months ago. I was elated to have been chosen to represent the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD). Being of Sri Lankan origin, to enter the Malaysian climate change scene was an achievement in itself for me. Together with a bunch of like-minded Malaysian Youth and a support system of buddies, my journey to COP22 began in May 2016.
Apart from the rigorous application process we the MYD 2016 had to go through, we had a training series spanning six months to make sure we were prepared for the big challenge ahead. It was no easy task, juggling a Final Year Project, an internship at an International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO), and the workload from MYD through the summer break. The training sessions required extensive reading into the subject matter of the UNFCCC, we refer to as the Bible.
My goal at COP22 was to shadow a national negotiator of Malaysia and Sri Lanka respectively, and write-up on how the two developing like-minded countries approach the negotiations to safeguard their respective national interests. I took my time off my busy schedule to follow not only Malaysia’s interest at COP but also of my motherlands. Little did I know that both countries’ negotiators wanted me to follow them into the negotiation room, something I could not do with my yellow ‘Observer’ badge. They were of the view that watching and observing was the best way to learn and gather knowledge for my article.
Life’s a climb and hiccups are unavoidable. Here in sub-Saharan Africa I was, let down by my Yellow badge unable to attend every single meeting I wanted to attend. So what does one do? One adapts! I changed my personal goal to suit my badge. I didn’t completely abandon my initial plans. I did catch a few dinners with a Malaysian negotiator and a few coffee sessions with three Sri Lankan negotiators. However, my main objective after I reached COP was to link the differences and challenges faced by the global south.
For a COP held in the global south, from day 1 I felt that the global south’s representation was minimal. Every working group, meeting and side event I attended was flooded by the vocal global north. The disparity in voicing out ideas between them was clearly observed and I was amused by it because it is the global south that is most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
The benefits of a yellow badge meant I could take part in all the actions organised. Since I was engrossed in the meetings and interviews I was carrying out with the delegations of Malaysia and Sri Lanka, I was able to devote only my weekends for actions. Climate March took place on Sunday with a huge youth turnout. Youth voiced out on freezing fossil fuel, fracking and called for leaders to be more transparent.
That is the summary of how a yellow badge changed my goal at COP and what a lot it taught me. The disparity between the north-south divide made me appreciate the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities more than ever, and the yellow badge opened my eyes not only towards negotiations, but the entire COP experience in general. Ever so grateful to MYD for giving me this opportunity, which was truly life changing.
Written by Dulanga Witharanage
Edited by Choy Moon Moon