It’s been one week since I returned from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In that time I have reflected on my experience and have decided share my top three takeaways!
1. Representation is power
While at the conference, my research and outreach focused on indigenous populations and their priorities. I had the opportunity to speak with many amazing representatives from these groups (check out my video about that experience). In our conversations, representation came up quite a bit, but it wasn’t until I entered a plenary (largest rooms held for official proceedings) that I truly understood what they were getting at.
When I sat in that room, I no longer felt like an outsider to these proceedings. That feeling is empowering and is not just important to me as a student of climate change, but is important to those groups who have historically been disenfranchised. This is their planet too and they deserve to feel empowered to save it.
2. The nitty-gritty matters
Never before have I heard of so much stress over grammar and word choice than in the context of climate negotiations. You may have heard that there was great debate over whether to “note” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report or to “welcome” it. That may seem like a slight change in connotation, but to the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, it was the difference between accepting the results of the climate change report and merely acknowledging the report’s existence. (To read more, click here.) By learning about these negotiations, I came to understand how much meaning lies beneath every word of these documents produced by the United Nations.
3. Don’t wait
While international negotiations are incredibly important, they can take a long time. The earth doesn’t have a long time. According to the IPCC 2018 special report, rapid and drastic changes are needed if we are to limit warming to 1.5°C.
“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” ~ Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.
We as individual citizens may need to work to mitigate climate change within our personal spheres before our countries take on the appropriate legislation. Campaigns such as “We Are Still In” in the United States, while not a perfect fix, are working to support the Paris Agreement without governmental support and highlight the importance of immediate action.
Small shifts in your everyday life, such as biking instead of driving, always recycling and composting, reducing food waste, turning out the lights out when you leave the room, eating less meat, etc. can be meaningful. And most importantly, vote. Tell your representatives if you don’t approve of the current course of action. This is the moment to speak and to act.
Oroschakoff, K., & Tamma, P. (2018, December 10). A difficult home stretch for the Katowice COP24 climate talks. Politico.
Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments. (2018, October 08). Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/