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.
I was privileged to speak about my experiences at COP20 to one of my sponsors last night. COP was such an immense, intense, cathartic experience that within the 20 minute discussion I could really only give a brief overview of all that happened. But, one thing I was thanked for in particular was including plenty of photos from the adventure.
Prior to attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Peru, I thought that I was going to have an easy time representing a country that is known to be clean and green. I was wrong.
Contrary to popular belief and perceptions, New Zealand is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters and also one of the countries who heartbreakingly commits less than its capability. So, we and our future children can say hello to extreme weather and more droughts, all thanks to the New Zealand government.
Like high school cliché groups wherein you become cool if you’re part of the cliques, New Zealand is part of the Umbrella Group, a collective of rich countries who give their best in doing the least. New Zealand portrays that it is doing its fair share when, in fact, its emissions have increased by 25% and its contributions to the Green Climate Fund are two times less than Columbia – a third world country. Awkward.
Despite all of these disappointments, civil societies continue to give the government grief. For example, the Coal Action Network Aotearoa put a strong demonstration where they asked the minister to stop throwing their heads in the sand and start looking at the reality of climate change.
Another more direct instance where civil society gave them grief was when New Zealand Youth Delegation delegate, Maddie Little, gave her condolences to Climate Change and Economic Minister Tim Grosser for his loss of ambition during a meeting inside COP20. Complete with a bouquet of flowers and a consolidated sheet of what the government can and should do to alleviate climate change, the confrontation was truly a success.
It is about time that people realise that we live in a world where climate change is no longer questioned scientifically. We all know how the Earth contains the heat that is produced by the sun as well as greenhouse gases that are emitted by cars, animals and burning fossil fuels for energy. These greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere and traps most of the heat making our climate warmer. In fact, Stanford University’s Stanford Woods Institute for Environment senior fellows Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field found that climate change is occurring 10 times faster.No wonder many of our neighbouring small island states are suffering from sea level rise, drought and extreme heat. All of these exacerbate their territories from sinking.
What would happen to our neighbours when they lose their land you might ask?
If the New Zealand government fail to implement our target emissions, we will inevitably accommodate citizens from our neighbouring countries as environmental refugees. I am not saying that taking in refugees is bad in fact I advocate the opposite. As an immigrant, I think that helping those in need and providing refugees a better and more secure future is vital. However, I feel more for those people who will lose their land, their connection with their land, their families and possibly lose their cultural structure and practices.
Thus, the New Zealand government who prides itself as the leader of small states upon winning a seat in the UNSC, would need to do more in committing and implementing nationally determined target emissions as well as making decisions that prioritises the environment over economic gain.
Also, our government should include the youth in the decision making process as we are essential the stakeholders of the future. One way it could do this is by allowing youths to join the official New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade delegation to United Nations conferences such as the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties as liaisons or advisers.
More importantly, the government should listen to the policy cries and asks of civil societies. Since 2015 is the last year countries will negotiate in the UNFCCC, civil societies are more fired up to put pressure on the government to make policies that align with what future generations need – an Earth that is below 2 C. As you read this, many campaigns from national climate action network such as Generation Zero are brewing up. Similarly, many international climate working groups such as Fast for the Climate are also bringing together people from different corners of the world to engage in actions that will open the eyes of governments and ordinary people alike to the harsh and devastating realities of climate change in countries that have been affected and continue to suffer.
This is the year when 190 countries will draft and sign a climate agreement which will determine whether we can look forward to a future with less extreme weather conditions. Will countries actually sign this agreement? I don’t know
But what I do know is that this 2015 agreement is not the sole answer to the climate issue. What I also know is that international process is very slow because little agreement happen due to the fact that countries are out there to protect their national interests. So what I hope is for communities and individuals give their share in stopping climate change. I hope that we can live a more eco-friendly life so we and our children can have a future on Earth.
It's a tragic love story, me and Copenhagen. We fell in love in the spring of 2009 - romantic to start with. I was 18, had a relatively recent understanding of the enormity that Climate Change is and what it means for us, and I was so, so hopeful.
I trusted world leaders to make strong commitments to reducing emissions, because they must know what I know, and we don't have time to mess around. It was a whirlwind fling, I gave it my all but love is blind and in the end it was definitely a disproportionate amount of effort on my behalf.
Greenpeace got a call saying "There's hippies in Britomart!!! Are they yours?" So for my love I even agreed to the addition of shoes and an official 'Sign On' teeshirt, over my bare feet and flowing dresses. I was walking around the streets of Auckland telling people about the Copenhagen conference as a volunteer for the Sign On campaign asking world leaders to sign on to 40% emissions reductions before 2020.
When it all fell apart I didn't cope well with the break up. To me what was the future of the planet and it's incredible web of life, had been shunned in the face of corporate interests. I was devastated and heartbroken, sick in my stomach, rejected, unsure of myself and totally disillusioned. I had been in love with the hope that the Copenhagen Conference (Dec, 2009) was a real solution to what was so scary to think about, and it was my only refuge from overwhelm.
And then I was angry. Seeing the impacts of extreme weather patterns over the last few years, the ongoing facilitation of big oil and coal in NZ, and countless other assaults on our environment, I have struggled with feelings of hopelessness as an activist and as a human being.
Since then I have found new refuges. I have experienced and seen so much magic and positivity. Community gardens, the Pinnacles in Thames, sunsets over the Hauraki Gulf, political leaders actually showing leadership (obviously not most but some!), local pest control initiatives being incredibly successful, waste reduction initiatives across the country, incredible dedication from hapu and groups challenging deep sea oil.
There are more fish in the sea. COP and I are still friends, I want leaders to take meaningful action on Climate Change, I want them to Sign On. But it is not the silver bullet (even though frustratingly it could be), and there are lots of other ways to Sign On to a cleaner, greener future and a healthier relationship with the planet. So get into supporting action at COP and get into Climate Action in your communities. :)
Yesterday I attended a massive climate March on the streets of Peru's capital Lima, with over 10,000 other people. The diversity and energy was incredible, with strong indigenous representation all the way through, workers in hard hats holding the back of the line to the many different Latin American and international organisations supporting the message that we have to "change the system not the climate."
Someone asked me in the days leading up to the March what I thought of that message, what it actually means and how we articulate it.
On the surface it is an acknowledgment that in solving this massive issue we have to look past the bandaid and false solutions and face the root causes of climate change. Which is why I like it; climate change is the accumulative result of systemic dysfunction, to address the many impacts of it we must look at that dysfunction as well.
But how do we do that in a world where many people, especially one in positions of power, do not clearly see the links between climate change and food, human rights, poverty, indigenous sovereignty, violence against women etc ?
I don't have the answer to this, but what we talked about that night before the March was values, the values which inform decisions made internationally, nationally and in our own homes need to shift. From individualistic, short-term, status quo & colonial; to collective, long-term, equitable, power sharing and wellbeing focussed. What is best for us & the earth collectively, what keeps us healthy and well.
The Climate Justice movement is working hard at highlighting all of these issues and pushing for solutions that don't perpetuate these injustices (like REDD+ -
At the March yesterday I was overwhelmed with the strength of messaging about these simple things we have to protect which look after our well-being and the earth. There was strong stuff about the COP and how it is missing some key elements, but what I mostly saw was calls for water, soil, the earth, communities, people and children to be looked after.
I have been a bit lost in the academic and international politics world at COP, sometimes wondering what I am even doing there. But it is this simple. Water, food, community, forests, life - it's our job to stand up for these things and protect them.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.
Our COP 20 delegate Renée Annan featured in El Comercio's photo series from Lima, where she was spotted taking part in a YOUNGO action.
COY10, my First Week of Lima and COP
I’ve been in Lima for 7 days now. I’ve meet young people from all across the world, made many new friends, connected deeply with the global youth climate movement, seen ridiculous fountain light shows, explored current archeological digs and got stuck into supporting civil society activities around COP20. There is always something happening in the streets — Marauding colonies of cats, traveling Peruvian bands or late night religious vigils.
Last week and over the weekend I attended COY (conference of youth) which was a space dedicated to educating young folks on climate change, solutions and how to make them a reality. This year we had 700 young people from all over the world, with the vast majority coming from other Latin American States and unable to attend the actual UN COP20 conference. For them it was their only chance to connect with those from the global youth climate movement and their only chance to have a voice their perspectives in the international climate negotiations sphere. It was way less focused on movement capacity building than I had expected and more focused on general education around climate change. This was less useful for me. Still, I absolutely loved the opportunity to connect with YOUNGO (youth constituency in the UN) and to talk with similar counterparts from different parts of the world. It was amazing to hear about all the incredible things that different movements achieve. I´ve been blown away by people´s passion for creating good outcomes and was absolutely amazed by the fact that Tuvalu fasted on Monday to raise awareness around climate change.
One thing that I´ve come to understand is that there is no one pespective on behalf of all young people. Everyone represents different contexts, experiences, geographic situations, socio-economic conditions and experiences. What unites us in our interest in building a better future for ourselves and for future generations. This link is powerful.
I´ve also had the incredible experience of spending time at a large building called CasaActiva or the Convergence Space. This is a large house where different movements and organizations are organizing around COP20, making things for actions, operating a community radio station, coordinating campaigns and preparing for the People´s Climate March on the 10th of December.
Lima, which appeared to be somewhat dry and desolate from the air is a bustling metropolis with 4 million people and an endless array of activities. It was also a huge shock arriving here and conversing with other New Zealanders for the first time in many weeks, but wonderful to connect with the great people of my delegation. The hostel we´re staying in is great, in a part of Lima named Miraflores (AKA. Home of the Gringo) with a rooftop bar and warm, friendly staff. Our small 8 bed dorm kingdom sits alongside those from many different delegations, from Holland, Germany, the US, Norway and a few others. Sharing the hostel with so many highly motivated, intelligent and interesting people is a lot fun, often leading to conversations which go until 5am. Hence its lucky that I´m not at COP this week.
Having a week off COP20 means that I´ve had time to get to know locals, explore parts of Lima, be part of organizing with other social movements and support the NZYD and AYLI delegations on the inside. This has been rewarding. Yesterday I had the privilage of exploring a working archeological site where a 1800 year old pre-Incan Pyramid is being excavated. With already 50% uncovered, it is a sight to behold — rising 30 metres above the surrounding cityscape, making it a highly immodest pyramid.
People worry that COP is broken. That the political deadlock cannot create a deal that will keep global temperature rise below 2´C. Still the talks go on with every country trying to create the best outcome for themselves and sometimes the wider world. It´s hard right now because I love New Zealand but at the moment we´re one of the biggest backsliding countries and barriers to positive outcomes from the negotiations. I wish I could be proud of what we´re doing but right now I can´t.
New Zealand has some of the lowest emissions reductions targets in the developed world (5%). We don´t plan to increase this target unless the world comes together to build an international climate pact which lowers emissions and creates a safe, 2´C temperature rise limit.
Unfortunately we´re at the same time advocating for a treaty which according to our own treasury, will not achieve this. From a purely skeptical perspective it seems like we´re trying to bury our own emission reduction failures and ensure we don´t have to aim higher. The craziest thing is we´re actually on track to a 36% increase in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. I optimistically hope that New Zealand will do the responsible thing and increase it´s targets while contributing to a positive international deal but right now I´m not so sure.
Whatever happens, I´m in COP20 next week and I can´t wait to ask our representatives first hand about this inconsistency. I´m cynical about having a positive outcome from these negotiations but can only hope for the best. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of future generations, for the suffering people of the Phillipines and every part of the world already impacted by climate change.
Lets hope for a better outcome than this. (credit: Political Humor)
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.
Last week our COP 20 delegate Dewy was featured in the East and Bays Courier - read their article below to find out about her experiences in Tacloban, and why she's so passionate about climate change issues.