Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Sierra Student Coalition first exciting week at COP16!

So far, COP16 has been an invaluable experience and the Sierra Club and the SSC have had a great impact at the convention with exciting media coverage. Every day has brought interesting and learning experiences and even adventures.
We have been participating in exciting things such as “Hello, Nihao & the Future,” a workshop where Chinese Youth Delegation, Sierra Student Coalition, SustainUS, and Cascade Climate Network shared their cultures and climate concerns to demonstrate cooperation and creativity to our world leaders, who should be doing the same to solve climate change. It was so exciting to see how cultural differences are what make us unique and not enemies. Everyone had a great time sharing their experiences and talking about the U.S. and China can do to agree on a binding climate treaty. This was the first of three workshops, and there will also be a shared action to get our leaders attention.
We also took part of a closed-door briefing with Jonathan Pershing, and between the Sierra Club and SSC we asked more than half of the questions. It was really interesting to hear the U.S. perspective on the whole negotiations, especially regarding relations between the U.S. and China.
Another big thing was our involvement at the Young and Future Generations Day. Thursday was the fourth day of the convention and the Young & Future Generations Day. International youth from 198 countries celebrated this date with different actions and workshops held at Cancun, Mexico and other places across the globe.
The day for the Student Sierra Coalition started at 8:30 a.m. with a Youth NGO (YOUNGO) meeting, where delegates got a taste of how complex it is to negotiate at an international level. From choosing a main language to convey the meetings to discuss intergenerational equity and strong climate solutions at the United Nations talks, young adults experienced some of the heat that negotiators must feel when dealing with serious decisions about the future of coming generations.
Half of the “YOUNGOS” stepped out of the meeting to participate in the first of several actions taken to celebrate this day. To make a statement of how young and future generations have been excluded from giving substantial input to the talks, we wore t-shirts that said “You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me you need more time” and received the negotiators entering the Cancunmesse.
After that, our delegation got together to have our daily meeting to check-in with one another and prioritize our activities for the day. Since there is so much going on, we need to be clear on our goals to be as effective as possible.
At 12 p.m., simultaneously at the Moon Palace and the Cancunmesse (both locations where the convention is being held) a climate action dance for solutions led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was organized. This is a tradition that started at a convention in Canada in 2005, and ever since, YOUNGOs dance “It’s hot in here” at every COP. Members of our delegation danced in front of dozens of cameras at both locations.
Following the dance, we all split to attend different plenary sessions and side events. I attended the Intergenerational Inquiry event, where the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, IPCC scientists, representatives of UN agencies and other key negotiators discussed their actions to address climate change. It is very interesting to observe how international policy is shaped and the challenges that nations have to overcome to have mutual understandings.
After that, we all met again to enjoy of exquisite Mexican food, and then prepare key questions for a Q&A sessions with Jonathan Pershing, lead U.S. negotiator at COP16. Chinese youth joined us at the meeting and we openly discussed China and U.S. relations and their roles in the climate change issue.
While this was happening, a Youth Market, held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Young and Future Generations Zone in Hall C at Cancunmesse, young people “traded” cultural goods and natural heritage products to highlight the diversity that’s being threatened by inaction on climate change. This was a fascinating experience that taught everyone a little bit more about all of our cultures and how with respect, we can all get to a mutual understanding.
We then gathered at the “Blogging Loft” to work on our projects and blogs, and then, we left to a YOUNGO reception at the Klimaforum, another climate event sponsored by the Mexican government during the talks. The reception was really fun, we were in the middle of the jungle listening to music and talking to each other about our days at the convention. Before we head back to the hotel, we got lost in the jungle on our way back, but we finally made it safely.
Friday, we help organize “Heads in the Sand” action. Sierra Club, Bill McKibben and the staff and SSC got to the beach early this morning to have a creative action that would get the media and the negotiators attention. We had different flags in our backs from certain countries that aren’t committed to sign a binding climate treaty, and then put our heads in the sand to send the message that leaders are not taking bold action to move forward with a climate treaty. We took pictures and recorded a video with Bill McKibben asking out leaders to take their heads out of the sand and save our future. We even had a “dead polar bear” in the picture. The event was a success; we got tons of media coverage and had a lot of fun. Here is a link to an article that BBC published about our action.

This is how our days have passed so far, we run from one place to another learning and experiencing invaluable things about our world and ourselves. I’m excited for what is coming in the next few days that we have left at the convention, and I hope I can keep sharing all of our adventures with Sierra Club back home.

Here are some resources where people can follow our actions at COP16.

Our blog

Sierra Club "Heads in the Sand" video

A climate action dance for solutions led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, where members of our delegation participated.

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