I’ve been thinking a lot about justice the past few days.
Climate change is among the biggest injustices our world currently faces. At COP22 I attended panel after panel filled with speakers marginalized by climate change. They included people from small island nations that will be underwater as sea levels continue to rise, indigenous women worried about the survival of their culture in the face of climate change, and activists concerned about how to hold countries accountable to their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) that each country has committed to through the Paris Agreement. These people share common fears and hope for the future.
COP22 was filled with optimism. But at the same time, I fear there will not be justice.
A woman from the Maldives, a small island nation, said quite convincingly, “We cannot have climate justice without ensuring the lives of all people on the planet.” It is no secret that those whose lives will be most affected by climate change are not those who are contributing the most to it. If you’re not convinced, check out the CAIT Climate Equity Explorer, a nifty interface that lets you compare up to 12 different nations on various factors such as current emissions, vulnerability, and development indicators.
The inequalities of climate change are well studied and well known. In other words, they are facts. Unfortunately, in the world of climate change denial the boundary between facts and opinions is getting harder to see. In a press conference at COP22, the head US Negotiator and the State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change, Dr. Jonathan Pershing, quoted Daniel Patrick Moynihan in reference to climate change deniers: “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
Climate change deniers treat their opinions that climate change is not real or is not a problem as facts. This is a very common exercise of free speech, but one that should be analyzed carefully. We all know that it is unacceptable to falsely yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater because an ensuing panic could hurt others.
Why do we not treat climate change denial in the same way?
On his website, Ethics and Climate, Don Brown has written on why climate change denial is neither “responsible scientific skepticism” nor a reasonable exercise of free speech. His blog is intriguing, and if you have some free time I highly recommend it.
At the very least, climate change is ethically unacceptable. At the worst, climate change denial is a crime against humanity. In his Nov. 16th speech to the COP, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that falling short in meeting the challenge of limiting global temperature increase to 2°C would be “the single greatest instance in modern history of a generation in a time of crisis abdicating responsibility for the future. And it won’t just be a policy failure; because of the nature of this challenge, it will be a moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequence.”
I am currently taking a Social and Political Philosophy class, and we’ve spent the semester discussing what justice looks like and how a just society would operate. I’ve learned how to reason through a philosophy argument, and how to spot fallacies in the arguments of others. We’ve debated the merits and potential problems of different political philosophies. That’s the thing with philosophy: you have to be able to back up your argument.
There is no reasonable, fact-based way to back up the climate change denial argument. Climate change denial is immoral. Denial justifies inaction. Inaction leads to very real consequences that cost people their lives. In John Kerry’s words, “No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input.”
There is no “international climate change court.” We cannot place a country on trial for failing to act on climate change. However, it was recently ruled that a lawsuit filed by 21 youth plaintiffs against the US government and fossil fuel companies could proceed on the basis that failing to act on climate change violates their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. In 2015, a landmark decision in the Netherlands is forcing the Dutch government to cut emissions by 25% within five years. The decision marked the first time that human rights and tort law were invoked in a lawsuit involving climate liability.
We will have to wait and see if courts are even capable of providing the justice the future of the planet is depending on. If not, we will have to rely on our own moral compasses to convince our leaders to act. Near the end of his speech, Kerry said “We have to continue to hold each other accountable for the choices that our nations make.”
An individual person’s moral convictions are a powerful thing. I am writing this blogpost out of a deep-rooted unwavering conviction that failing to act on climate change is profoundly selfish, ignorant, wrong, and unjust.
Someday there will be a US Presidential election where climate justice isn’t a partisan issue. It is up to us to make it as soon as possible. Until then, we must hold each other accountable for the moral failures of our society with our hearts and our heads, and hope that justice won’t be served too late.
Fossil Fuels: At the COP
I want to take a moment and address the concerns about fossil fuel companies attending the UNFCCC. There has been a petition created by Corporate Accountability International and signed by many attendees--especially youth activists--to ban fossil fuel businesses from the COP. Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Special Envoy for Climate Change and head of the U.S. negotiation team, addressed this concern in his press conference for youth delegates yesterday afternoon.
When asked if he would support closing the door fossil fuel attendance at the COP, his response was a firm no. He candidly spoke to the importance of having these ‘dirty’ businesses in the room so he could keep tabs on their interest and learn how to change their mind. Edging them out of conversations in which they could become great allies in clean energy, an imminent transition by the looks of recent market trends, creates bad blood and might block future partnering for innovation. “If I paint them into a corner, I think I’m gonna lose,” Pershing said.
To clear things up--these energy companies? They’re here as observers. Much of the COP is closed-door meetings between party delegates. Anyone here from an energy company has just as much access to closed meetings as I do: and trust me, they’ve been pretty strict about “Party Only” rules. Yes, representatives can network and talk to party members, but delegates are extremely busy and barely have time for lunch: as evidenced by the lovely UK woman who sat next to me at the restaurant yesterday--poor thing practically inhaled her stirfry, exchanged a few nice words (I had to pester her, of course) and promptly left 8 minutes later.
As observers, the fossil fuel representatives actually stand to learn an immense array of things about climate change--its impact on indigenous people, the public health effects, the damage to the markets, and the great potential for improvements, innovation and economic growth. I challenge anyone to listen to the words of an indigenous woman from Chilé speak to the decimation of her homeland and not be at least a little moved.
Fossil Fuels: At Home
Moving toward green investments is a market-driven reality. Though I support the inclusion of energy companies at the conference, I do not stand behind the inclusion of fossil fuel companies in invest portfolios. Especially those owned by universities full of academic, socially and environmentally aware people who should know better.
That leaves me wondering why, in the face of blatant evidence that fossil fuels are archaic and destined to decline, some institutions continue fiscally supporting them. Many universities and businesses, like Microsoft and Harvard, have opted to reallocate parts of their endowments or investment portfolios from fossil fuels, often reinvesting in renewables.
I’m disappointed to say that my home institution, Johns Hopkins University, has failed to follow these examples of environmental responsibility. I love my school: it has its flaws, as any university does, but overall I can say that Hopkins is a huge part of who I am today. Hopkins informs and challenges my worldview through its diverse student body, nurtures and grows my mind through fantastic courses led by passionate professors, and feeds my soul through the extracurriculars I have been able to pursue. Without Hopkins, the road to Marrakech would have been much more of a struggle for me. I am able to attend the COP because of a grant Dean Martinez gave me (shoutout to the Parents’ Fund, and also to my own mother--the other big reason I was able to go!).
For all the forward thinking and progressive ideals the administration loves to embrace, I hope divestment would be one of them. Come on, Hopkins. Our endowment is meant to spur the education of future world leaders, not to bolster the bottom line of carbon-emitting fuel companies. I view the school's money as something that should be used to holistically address student and world well-being: fossil fuels do not align with this. We are leaders in public health, engineering, innovation: we should be leaders in fiscal responsiblity. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.
Finally, a big shoutout to Refuel Our Future, the JHU student group working towards divestment at Hopkins. The photos featured in this post are from the recent sit-in they staged in our administrative building on campus. Student activism remains a strong force of change: the university represents us and is meant to act in our interest. Proud of my fellow Blue Jays for taking a stand to protect the planet.
Thanks to Christian Cayon for the photos!
This is a photo that was provided at COP22, showing the glaciers on the Himalayan mountains. The Himalayan glaciers are considered the “water towers” of Asia and a source of water for other rivers that are surrounding; such as the Indus and the Ganges. During the COP22 conference it has been brought to attention that glaciers located on Mount Everest are predicted to melt due to the increase in the temperature rise. Increasing the rate at which these glaciers are melting endangers both the environment, animals, and human life. One of the panels suggests “Accelerated melting of the Himalaya glaciers could affect over a billion people who depend directly on the water from the Himalayas for both farming and hydropower.” Reducing the greenhouse emissions, will greatly affect the melting of these glaciers and society should push more countries to sign to the Paris Agreement.
Wheat fields in India have been a big market and food source for the country throughout the years. Punjab, India is considered one of the “bread baskets” of the world for the amount of wheat and bread they produce. Though, India has been having malnutrition throughout the wheat fields because of the decreasing level in groundwater. India has become very concerned about the wheat fields and what is to happen in the future with producing bread because of this issue. Another issue similar to wheat in India is rice in China. China has seen that with the temperature rising throughout the world and an increase in methane emissions, the yield of rice has started to decrease. Of course with losing rice, the price of rice is predicted to rise to 32-37% as well as the yield only being 10-15%. Rice is a main product and marketing factor in China and will have a detrimental effect on the economy. The left picture below is a picture of an India wheat field and the picture on the right below is a rice field in China.
COP22 has taken an interesting aspect of promoting climate change at this Marrakech convention. Being mainly in the green zone, I have noticed that the youth is really taking an act on climate change because we are the ones to be affected in the future years. My interest in food and water came about when deciding between an issue to cover for the American Chemical Society meeting in the spring at San Francisco. I have learned a lot about public health, specifically ways to better food and water throughout the world. I meet with a group called Indu and they focused on bacteria in water and ways to reduce it. I found this most interesting because it was so simple with the process. There is a plant called endive, which is very leafy and bitter. The endive contains folate, fiber, and vitamins A and K. To start the process Indu treated the endives with sunlight then moved them to a dark refrigerator for 21 days. The purpose of the darkness is to ensure the endives do not open up, resulting in loss of nutrients and moisture. In the refrigerator where the endives are kept is a continuous flow of water to keep the endives moist. After 21 days, the endives are fed to the fish to be digested and to then have a chemical produced to reduce bacteria in the water. I thought this was super cool because of how natural and easy this process can be completed.
COP22 Green Zone
While I’m working on many posts regarding the science, policy, and innovation I’ve learned about here at COP22, I realized that I have yet to say much about the day-to-day goings on. So here’s a more light-hearted look at the ACS Student Rep’s daily activities. (TLDR; it includes lots of bread, walking, and looking at a schedule--with lots of cool people inbetween.)
6:30 AM: Wake Up
My bed is hella comfy. Our group is staying in a riad (see it here), with six bedrooms and a lovely common space. For once in my life I was very assertive and immediately dibs’d the top room: I wake up and go out onto the open-aired patio. It’s chill when we wake up--low fifties--but I always dress in layers because midday the sun makes Marrakesh quite hot; high seventies for us this week. At the beginning of the week, the group ate breakfast together, but now we all leave at different times based on what events we want to go to. Maddie and I usually leave first, eating breakfast at 7:30. Before we go we try to figure out what events and panels we want to attend: more on that later.
Ayoub, the manager/attendant/all-around-awesome guy who works at the riad, makes coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. We eat a different type of hot pastry each morning, but the portion of that is very small, so everyone supplements with a hunk (or two) of fresh baguette slathered with fresh strawberry or fig jam. Then we head off to catch the bus to the conference. Our riad is in the Medina, or old town; we walk about a mile to reach a huge square (the Jemaa el-Fna) where the buses park. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the conference.
When we get to the COP--a sprawling compound of tent-like structures set up just two months ago--we go through security (think airport) and then enter the Blue Zone. COP is separated into two areas; the Green Zone, which is open to the public (still requires security), and the Blue Zone, which requires U.N. Accreditation to enter. There are cool events and exhibits in both areas, but the Blue Zone is where negotiations and high-level meetings occur.
There are a million things happening at any time. Plenaries are probably what most people imagine when they think “UN Conference”. There are two major Plenary halls; Casablanca and Marrakech. Within them are hundreds of tables, placed row after row, where delegations sit behind signs marking their nation/NGO affiliation. Each seat is equipped with a microphone. We, as observers, sit in the back. In the Plenaries, high-ranking officials speak on action items in the Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, an Paris Agreement. After these opening remarks, >>>>
Meanwhile, press conferences, side events, and both open and closed meetings about specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Paris Agreement are also happening. Meetings take place in smaller rooms set up with square conference tables, each seat with a microphone and a moderator keeping delegates on-topic. There are several press rooms in the Blue Zone, and NGO’s, nations, and high-ranking officials all give briefings throughout the day. Yesterday I went to Secretary of State John Kerry’s press briefing: it was very moving and well-delivered. You can find the full text here.
The side events include great panels featuring every climate-related topic you can think of: food security, water scarcity, energy innovation, climate finance, gender equality, rights of indigenous people, education, etc…. Choosing what to attend is hard, because there are so many interesting things happening each minute.
I usually have about an hour break at noon or one to grab lunch. In the Blue Zone are many different ethnic cuisines; Mediterranean, Chinese, Moroccan, French. I grab lunch with Maddie, and sometimes we sit with strangers. One of the most interesting lunches we had was with two lawyers from different countries in the EU. They were got into a heated debate over the Paris Agreement’s chance of success, especially in the face of a U.S. exit. (One was staunchly positive, and one was quite pessimistic.) After lunch we part ways and head back to hear more panels or sit in on meetings. Events go until 8 PM, but we usually head out at about 6:30 or 7. It’s been dark for an hour or so by the time we leave.
We get off the bus in the same square where we boarded in the morning. The bus rides are fun, because we meet people from all over the world. This morning I sat next to a man from Seychelles--a nation I hadn’t even heard of before. Maddie and I walk back to the Riad to drop off our things and re-group with the rest of the ACS team. Dinner is most commonly eaten back in the Jemaa el-Fna square, or somewhere within walking distance in the Medina. Our meal is usually one of two things; either cous cous with vegetables (and meat for some), or vegetable tagine: a kind of roast made in a ceramic dish.
After that we walk around the city a bit, exploring the market stalls and taking in the bustle of the evening. The square is full of people after dark: international tourists, visiting Moroccans from other cities, and more juice carts than I thought one city could need. Our conversations usually circle back to the COP and the interesting people we met and listened to. On our walk home we stop for an ice cream or pastry (which we can get for 15 DH or less; that’s a $1.50).
Back at the Riad, everyone says goodnight and heads to their rooms. I collect my notes and make outlines for blogs or further research until my eyes refuse to stay open.
Then we wake up and do it all again.
After being at COP22 for several days, I wanted to highlight some of the awesome and inspiring women I have met and listened to, and their gender-just climate solutions that have been presented here!
You may be wondering, what is a gender-just climate solution? Why does it even make sense to talk about gender and climate change together? When we talk about climate change, we must recognize the fact that clean energy and solutions to GHG emissions should not oppress or place more burdens on women. The truth is everyone wins when women are empowered and educated to pursue clean energy climate solutions in their communities.
On Monday I attended the Gender-Just Climate Solutions Awards that were put on by the Women and Gender Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Before the awards were presented, they laid out the criteria:
One of these awards went to The Mohammad VI Foundation for Environmental Protection in Morocco, for their work in promoting and implementing ecostoves in communities. Ecostoves are an easy solution that reduce carbon emissions from the burning of biomass for cooking and improve public health. Three billion people around the world use the burning of coal or biomass for heating and cooking. It is estimated that 25% of the world’s black carbon emissions come from the burning of biomass for these purposes. Each year 4.3 million people die prematurely from diseases associated with household air pollution as a result of inefficient cooking. Women are most often affected by the negative health consequences of traditional cooking methods because they do the majority of the cooking.
I studied away in Oaxaca, Mexico for a semester last year, and while there I was first exposed to the idea of ecostoves and how they have a direct, tangible, positive impact on women. My Spanish language school shared a building with an organization called En Vía, which provides microfinance loans to women in rural, mainly indigenous villages so that they can start or maintain a small business. Recently, En Vía had gotten engineering students from Mexico City to come and install ecostoves in many of the women’s homes because of the health risks that they were facing.
Ecostoves prevent smoke from burning biomass from staying in the home, and also decrease the amount of biomass that needs to be burned for these purposes because of increased efficiency. This is a great example of a gender-just climate solution that advances and directly benefits women, while also helping to reduce emissions and combat climate change.
Besides helping to raise awareness of gender-just climate solutions, women at COP22 are angry, and they have a right to be. On Wednesday I attended a panel hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) that featured women from around their world and their perspectives on climate justice and what they are doing on the frontlines in their communities to combat inequalities and climate change. A woman from Bolivia spoke about how a massive hydropower project was going to destroy and leave entire indigenous communities underwater in the name of clean energy and sustainable development. Other speakers touched on the fact that 50% of environmental activists that are assassinated are indigenous. Many are women. This event was among the most energized I’ve attended, and each panelist spoke with a huge sense of urgency.
At the Gender-Just Climate Solutions Awards earlier in the week, there was also a sense of urgency, but there was hope too. Awareness of gender equality in the context of climate change is increasing. More people are realizing that true climate justice cannot be accomplished without the participation and involvement of women in their communities around the world and the democratization of energy.
After each woman/organization received their awards at this event, the host, a very passionate Nigerian woman, asked us to sing a song with her. It’s been stuck in my head since Monday.
“So sing a song, for women everywhere! Equality, development, and peace!”
Maddie Smith: Human Rights, Biofuels, and the Implementation of the Paris Agreement
COP22 in Marrakech is all about moving towards implementation of the Paris Agreement that was passed at COP21 last year, and officially entered force on November 4, 2016. At the first two days of my time at COP22 I attended several events centered on the “how” of the implementation of this agreement and potential problems various NGOs and governments saw in regards to transitioning the world to more sustainable energy, cutting emissions, and weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. The point all of the panelists repeated was that it is essential that we do this in a way that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
It was considered a major victory last year when human rights language was included in the preamble of the Paris Agreement. It states “that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”
It is essential that the Paris Agreement is implemented in a way that recognizes different countries are disproportionately affected by climate change, recognizes and values the concerns and sovereignty of indigenous peoples, includes sustainable development that doesn’t come with externalities, and is gender-just and doesn’t impose extra burdens on women.
I wanted to share an example of a climate solution featured in a panel I went to that is often heavily touted, but does not promote climate justice and in fact violates many human rights. The truth is that biofuels are not a viable solution to our energy and climate problems. When you fill up on E10 at the pump, do you really know what is going on? We need to consider several important facts:
If biofuels are so problematic, then why do we still think of them as a green solution? Biofuels are a great example of a scientific solution to the energy crisis that simply fails to consider the very real and harmful impacts on people in developing nations around the world. We need solutions that value human dignity and do not negatively impact already disadvantaged populations. As the implementation of the Paris Agreement moves forward it will be essential for all parties to consider and develop climate solutions that are truly just.
“Government policy drives entrepreneurial investment.” Deb Markowitz, Vermont’s Secretary of Natural Resources, spoke with vigor today on the importance of state legislatures taking strong action against climate change in the next four years.
This evening’s panel, “U.S. Action at All Levels”, brought three leaders in differing sectors together to speak on the future of climate action in America. Moderated by Jennifer Layke, Global Energy Director of the World Resources Institute, the room was filled to the brim with people from across the globe, all anxious to hear how America’s current environmental leaders planned to proceed under a Trump presidency.
Alongside Markowitz sat Diane Holdorf, Chief Sustainability Officer of Kellogg, and Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to Barack Obama. Together, the three speakers spanned federal, state, and corporate interests.
Layke began by addressing the tiny-handed elephant in the room, acknowledging that there was much “uncertainty” following the Presidential election. She kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists how they thought a Trump presidency would impact the progress made in each of their respective institutions on climate adaptation and mitigation.
Deese spoke about the Clean Power Plan, which many fear will be thrown out by President elect Trump, pointing out that it hasn’t actually entered into force yet and is intended as a long-term driver for transition to renewable energy. Progress being made now (and it is significant!) is mainly due to market changes.
Sounding very cool for a man whose last eight years of work was so immediately threatened by Trump, Deese confidently explained that there is an economic transition to clean energy underway. “I know well… how slowly you can move sometimes when you’re trying to achieve your plans,” he said.
According to Deese, the shift from coal to natural gas, and natural gas to renewables in the long term, is a market-driven movement. Regulations have little to do with the loss of financial support for coal.
One audience member asked how these shifts could be continued when traditionally conservative states, such as Texas, had such a large role to play in the successful transition to clean energy.
Deese was quick to address these concerns. “It’s funny you should mention Texas,” he said. “Texas is a state that produces more wind power than any other state in the country.”
Secretary Markowitz of Vermont spoke to the role states are already taking in spearheading climate change mitigation. “Every time we’re investing money, we’re doing it for multiple benefits,” Markowitz said. She acknowledged that while the coasts were the first to jump on the green-policy bandwagon, she was hopeful that Middle America would see the effects of environmental policy. Markowitz lists these as two fold: 1) reducing emissions and 2) stimulating economic development.
And though some states are not openly in favor of climate change action, Markowitz expressed that state governments and resource secretaries “quietly moved forward” with regulations and plans to reduce emissions following the Paris Agreement.
“There are a number of my colleagues that will not use the words climate change,” said Markowitz. “That doesn’t mean they won’t protect their constituents from air pollution.”
The major takeaways from this panel?
So how can we keep action on climate change adaptation alive, even if we have four years of Trump ahead of us? Deese offers a solution--show people exactly how climate change affects them or someone they love. Says Deese: “It’s an issue that’s most impactful when it’s brought down to the local level.”
The opportunity to attend a COP conference is a lifetime opportunity for any environmentalists; this can obviously be seen by the older passionate delegates during discussions. I am currently an undergraduate junior at New York University and from my coursework, I have been offered mostly a historical and generalized perspective of many of the issues presented at this conference. There is nothing wrong with this, for this represents the limitations of studying in a classroom environment such as one does in college.
At this Climate Conference, I was blown away by the immersion of the experience. Since this is an international conference that brings the best brains of the world, many of the interactions at this conference involved talking to people who are experts in their field. Not only did I talk to experts, but I was allowed the opportunity to network with students that had similar interests to mine. However, it was not only the intelligence at this conference which made it special, but rather the diversity of opinions. When controversial topics were brought up such as biofuels, experts from different fields had different experiences to offer and even if they were in the same field, one might support nuclear energy and other scientist may be strongly against it. The intense discussions that followed in the side-events were mind-boggling because many experts had strong viewpoints on their solution to the problem.
One of the most profound experiences was when I learned about CO2 sequestering from the OPEC (oil producing export nations in the middle east) scientists. I assumed that they would present a case such as a climate denier, but I was seriously proven wrong, because they presented beautiful techniques and financing that held up strongly against the other scientists who were aggressively questioning them from the United States. Nevertheless, the discussion was beyond my capacity to understand and to further dig deeper into the subject I visited a UN stand that explained the science of carbon sequestering. I was then presented with a 20-minute conversation regarding the pros and cons of the method. Considering the knowledge and perspectives that I gained in this conference, I would say that each day at this conference is equal to 1 semester in college.
I don’t that it would unreasonable to proclaim that there is no experience that parallels attending a COP conference. I personally would tell all my peers to attend this conference if they could get a opportunity to get to do so in the future.
Alice Henderson: Sculpture at COP 22
"L'art peut-il interroger le réel?"
"Can art examine reality?"
This is the question posed by Moroccan artist, Nordin Znati, who created sculpture pieces for display at COP 22. While his is not the only art on display at the COP - meeting room hallways display photography, drawings and children's artwork - it is the most central display, located along the main walkway in the "COP Village," and it is the only sculpture display.
These pieces are composed of everyday materials, discarded metal scrap, wire, bike chains, light bulbs, water dials and canisters. They are influenced by Znati's concern for environmental action along with faith and readings from the Quran. As an advocate for science and science communication, it is important to engage multiple academic disciplines including the social sciences, humanities, art, music, and film in pursuit of engaging both policy makers and the public.
I will highlight a few of the sculptures here along with some brief explanations based on discussion with the artist during my time at COP 22.
This piece describes climate refugees. Birds are shown dragging their home with heads bent. The front character has a door strapped to their back indicating "Dr. Typhoon Iceberg has changed his address," but the new address is a place that doesn't exist, since icebergs are retreating to a place we don't know if they will ever return from.
This final sculpture displays the importance of climate change education. Here the smaller figure had a light bulb for a head, indicating new ideas and ways of thinking that spring from education. Education is the future of the climate movement, without education things cannot change in a positive way.
Znati hopes that his art at COP 22 will influence policy makers and other attendees. He describes how words can go in one ear and out the other, while an image or art piece stays with you for a long time. I for one was impacted by this artwork and I hope our negotiators have been as well. With the minute details of word choice and syntax discussed in many of the negotiation meetings, it is easy to lose track of the bigger picture, the larger problems facing our global community. I sincerely hope Znati's art makes an impact during COP 22, asking the question:
"Can art examine reality?"
Kowan O'Keefe: Youth Day
At COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco, each day has a theme. Today was Youth & Future Generations Day. There were all kinds of events geared towards the younger attendees at the conference. It was a great opportunity to meet other young people from around the world, including Austria, New Zealand, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, China, Argentina, and Belgium, just to name a few.
I remember when I was at COP 20, there wasn’t much of a sense of urgency to act, even though it was critical to agree to a roadmap for COP 21 in Paris. And while I was not at COP 21, from the impressions I obtained from the media and attendees, everyone saw a sense of urgency to craft a revolutionary deal that had never been seen before. At COP 22 in Marrakech, just like at Lima, I sense that there doesn’t seem be that same sense of urgency.
Due to the fact that the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP 21 last year, this was supposed to be the “COP of Action.” Travelling through Marrakech to the conference, I’ve seen numerous United Nations signs that simply say “ACT” in 6 different languages. But, here at COP 22, it seems to be all talk, and it’s looking as if the nations of the world are reverting back to the pre-Paris status quo business-as-usual approach. Without a doubt, the results of the US election have been felt even here at COP 22. However, we cannot let that stop the youth and future generations of the world from speaking up about climate change and demanding bold action from our leaders.
Youth engagement in climate change negotiations is critical and many youth groups today exemplified this point. Most of the negotiators making the decisions about the future of our planet are 40-50 years older than today’s younger generations. As a result of this, they will not see the worst effects of climate change and don’t have the motivation that we do to enact any change. As the youth of today, we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and watch. Our collective passion, frustration, ideas, and dreams need to be heard at the highest level!