We’re really excited to have our alumna Sedef Duder-Özyurt leading our delegation to the UN Climate Talks in Poland in December! To join her, apply by midnight tomorrow right here.
Kia ora! If you’re reading this, then perhaps you’re thinking of joining me at COP24 - wicked! Below are my musings about what COP was like for me to give you a feel of what it might be like for you. At the end I’ve put in some pearls of wisdom that might be handy should you be chosen. Enjoy!
Nearly a year ago to the day I embarked on what turned out to be a seminal journey to COP23 in Bonn. Since returning I’ve been subliminally categorising my life as “life before COP” and “life after COP”. I do this because so much shifted, transformed and solidified for me while I was in Bonn and has continued to do so ever since - a journey that has been disheartening yet inspiring and generally intense.
Having had environmental concerns and passions instilled in me by my family from a very young age, I wasn’t ignorant to climate change or the myriad of things that are unjust in the world before going to COP. However, most of my environmentalism before going to COP was at the grassroots community level: that exciting and inspiring fairyland where the ‘wins’ are relatively quick and come in regular succession. Looking back, I think I naively thought that the UN would work at a similar pace and be equally invigorating. I guess I also figured that because climate change is such a vital issue requiring a super-human levels of cooperation and compassion, negotiations would work seamlessly and everyone would admirable in their intentions. It didn’t take me long to realise that the reality was far less, well, shiny, shall we say, and that even climate change - the biggest threat our world faces - doesn’t automatically cancel out politics and ego.
And it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been warned about this or I was the first person to go through this cocktail of emotions - we were prepared awesomely for this eventuality. But I think like anything it takes a firsthand realisation to see for yourself that it’s true, and sometimes the realisation comes in hindsight. Needless to say that COP23 taught me a huge amount about other people, the ~system~, and perhaps most importantly a lot about myself, my values, my capabilities and my resilience…Can you tell I’m still processing it all?!
It’s worth stressing at this point that COP isn’t just back-to-back existential crises. In fact, the precariousness of the situation makes for some very precious relationships, treasured bonds, unexpected nights out and laugh-from-the-pit-of-your-stomach hilarious moments. On the rollercoaster ride that is COP the highs are equally matched with the lows and that’s all part of its charm.
Moving on from all the heavy stuff, I wanted to compile a list of things that I’d recommend doing in preparing for COP. Some of these things are stuff that really helped me and the rest are things I didn’t do but wish I did:
These documents by CAN (Climate Action Network) are awesome too: http://www.climatenetwork.org/publication/briefing-pre-cop-2018-october-2018?fbclid=IwAR3s_WYHsa0ywcowJlo7ZFlkUPUoutfLovihJNIalFw05ID1swM-1cWVwLc and https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/insider-ministers-advance-climate-negotiations-and-keep-spirit-paris-agreement-alive
⁃ Read the Paris Agreement! It’s a nerdy feat but it’s worth it! https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf
⁃ Find someone you know who’s been to a COP and take them out for coffee for great stories and great advice (I drink soy lattes thanks!)
⁃ While it’s tempting, don’t be too ambitious with what you went to get out of your first COP. A lot of it is just running round figuring out where (and who) you are. That’s okay. Pick something you’re already passionate about and see if you can get more of an idea of how it’s been dealt with at previous COPs by civil society and the negotiations themselves.
⁃ Talk to your friends / family / partners and let them know that you may be pretty consumed for the time you’re away!
⁃ Set up a new email account or a comprehensive filterning system to use for all the climate mailing list emails because the inundation is real.
⁃ Get healthy. Europe is cold and the days are long.
⁃ Pack Whittakers. European chocolate is weird.
⁃ If you can, try to organise time after the conference that you can take for yourself to process the overwhelming thing you’ve just been through.
I hope that this gives some indication as to what COP can look like and gives you an extra bump to apply. I’m giddy at the thought of how much ground we’ll cover on our journey together and I’m really looking forward to the knowledge and memories we’ll share between us.
Best of luck with your applications!
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.