Feed on

Somehow, it is already Day 8 here at COP18/CMP8. Ministers from around the world arrived at the convention center on Monday to join the conference in its second week. Though the big picture is coming into focus as the days go on, many outcomes on key negotiation topics are not yet settled. The main items on table in Doha remain the nature of the Kyoto Protocol extension, issues relating to the Durban Platform (which imposes a 2015 deadline for the creation of a global emissions reduction pact, to be enacted in 2020), finance, and accountability standards, among others.

Whether you are a college research assistant or Ban Ki-moon himself, it is not possible to attend every panel discussion, meeting, plenary, and briefing that takes place at COP18. Fortunately, there are a number of great resources for anyone who wants to know what is happening on a day to day basis in the recesses of the QNCC. For up-to-date information on the negotiations – as well as coverage of interesting side events, youth actions, and discussions – check out these links:

Earth Negotiations Bulletin (daily highlights from the negotiations)

Daily negotiations highlights (feed via GEF website). Short and sweet breakdowns of what happens each day at the conference.

Selected Side Event Coverage from ENB

Summaries of talks given at COP18 by experts on key issues related to the negotiations. (Sophie and I can be found at many of these events taking notes for Professor Dorsey’s Climate Justice Research Project.)

UNFCCC newsroom

Recent coverage of the negotiations from news outlets around the world.

and, because reading is hard: COP18 in photos

While I guess you could search COP18 on Flickr yourself, wouldn’t you rather we did it for you? Many of the organizations whose accounts appear here also produce their own written coverage, so this can serve as a jumping-off point for more research.

– Chloe

This morning, delegates from the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition led an action promoting their Climate Legacy campaign. Wearing red dots as a “statement of solidarity with the people living and fighting on the front lines of a warmed world. Launched at the United Nations climate talks in Doha, it is as also a reminder to negotiators, politicians, and the entire UN that we will not back down. We refuse to compromise present or future lives and livelihoods. It is a statement of solidarity with communities on the front line of the expansion of the fossil fuel industry – an affirmation of our support for the rights of Indigenous peoples and frontline communities threatened by environmental and climate injustice. It is a declaration that we will not stand idly by as the planet is sold to the interests of the few on the backs of the many.” (Cameron Fenton, Director of CYCC). The red dot symbol was inspired by the youth protests in Quebec, and “is more than an image. It is a reminder to those in the plenary halls that hour by hour and day by day, they risk keeping us on the path to a world that is more than 4 degrees warmer than it is right now. It is a reminder that their decisions has real consequence for the lived realities of hundreds of thousands of people. It is a symbol that our voices are unified.” 

As delegates, NGO members, and press streamed in this morning, they were met by a line of youth activists holding signs reminding them of our mutual obligations to move forward on climate change policy and actually protect our Earth. For some images, check out the Sierra Student Coalition flickr page.


Over 150 youth delegates from around the world are attending COP 18. They come to lend their voices to the debate on the future of climate change. The youth delegates represent numerous civil society organizations including Climate Justice Now (CJN), [Earth in Brackets], the Arab Youth Society, Climate Action Network, and  Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition. Thursday, November 28th was COP18/CMP8’s Youth Day which was dedicated to showing how climate change effects the world’s youth and the effect they can have on the negotiation process.

I must admit, I was skeptical of the idea of a youth movement. It was hard for me to understand their purpose and more importantly, their goals. But, after a YOUNGO meeting and conversations with a few students, I realized that this conference is an opportunity for we, the youth, to exchange ideas and strategies with activists, delegates, and any person we are able to interact with. They are attempting to change and improve the multilateral negotiation process and as Dessima Williams, Grenada’s ambassador to the UN stated, “you as a generation can help us design this new paradigm for negotiations.”

There was one particularly insightful and inspiring story that I believe everyone should hear. 

Anjali Appadurai from [Earth in Brackets] delivered a 30 second intervention during the COP 18 Opening Plenary. The intervention was well-said and thought provoking. [For the speech, click here]. The statement was delivered on behalf of CJN (mentioned above). As a result, Anjali was banned and de-badged from the COP and all negotiations based on arbitrary decisions made by the UN security. This act by the UN Secretariat perpetuated the idea that civil society is constantly undermined in these negotiations.

Just a short time ago in Durban, Appadurai urged delegates and leaders around the world to “get it done” at the end of her chilling speech about the dire need to change the negotiation process. After twitter blasts and pressure from all youth groups, the UN Secretariat finally returned Anjali’s badge.

Her actions epitomize the stand we all should take on climate change. We will be heard.

It’s our future, and we should be in control of it. 



We decided to try out some amateur video journalism! (A big shout out to the Wesleyan COE for the flip-cams.)

From Saturday’s climate justice march:

Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance

“Food For All”

Youth Marchers

Namibian Protestor


(image via Leehi Yona, Dartmouth student and Canadian extraordinaire)

Marching in Doha!

This morning Chloe and I participated in the Climate March, apparently the first-ever march in Doha. The number of people there and the crowd’s enthusiasm were infectious. Many different environmental groups, from Vegans for Peace, Climate Action Now, and 350.org to the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, held their banners proudly as we marched down the Corniche, a palm-lined boardwalk along the Persian gulf.

The Corniche

While I’d run along the Corniche before, the scene this morning was entirely different. Chants of “Climate Justice Now!” and “Hot air, no fair!” could be heard from people of all ages and backgrounds. Young women in black niqabs conversed with T-shirt clad members of the UK Youth delegation while Japanese men in button-down shirts engaged with a man wearing brightly colored patterned pants and shirt. Chloe and I spoke with a number of protesters, including a student from Namibia, volunteers from a Qatari high school, and a Japanese man protesting damage from nuclear radiation. All expressed sincere hope for the future and frustration with the current situation.

The Arab Youth Climate Movement took a leading role in the march, striding proudly at the head of the crowd holding a large, yellow banner reading”Arabs; Time to Lead.” A man in traditional Qatari dress walked in front, shouting chants in Arabic and English into a megaphone. The juxtaposition of the crowd to the city skyline on one side and the hazy horizon of the Persian gulf on the other was striking.

In the diplomatic quarter where we are staying, this city seems at times practically uninhabited. Even en route to the march this morning, we were struck by the emptiness of the streets. Though tall towers abound and parking lots are filled with high-end but dust-covered cars, there are few to no pedestrians and insignificant traffic in our part of town. The march stood in stark contrast: a diverse group of people shouting, chatting, and singing, waving signs and working in concert for a common human cause.

empty streets…

…no longer!

Until a few days ago, many conference attendees raised doubts as to whether a march would actually occur in Doha, as it lacks a significant source of student activism and is also difficult to get to. Some, like Sociologist and Professor John Foran of the University of California Santa Barbara and the International Institute of Climate Action & Theory (IICAT), have suggested that holding COP18 in Doha was a calculated move on the part of the Secretariat to avoid protests like those held in Durban and Copenhagen. Today, however, the march was supported by the Secretariat. In light of all this, it was particularly exciting and uplifting to see this march in Doha, and a real thrill to be a part of it. Foran said he “felt the march had great energy and was considered by many people I spoke with to be of historical significance.” While the slow pace of negotiations and change within the conference center can be discouraging to all at times, the turnout and the collaboration in this march were truly inspiring. The march today underscored in our minds the importance of being active global citizens, and is something we will remember for years to come.

Stay tuned for some video interviews!


Though everyone is ostensibly here at COP18 to grapple with climate change issues, the range of views espoused and the politics are truly mind-boggling. We’ve been processing a massive quantity of information in the past few days, largely gained from the panels we attend.  These include discussions about REDD+, climate-smart agriculture, indigenous rights, the Green Climate Fund, and much more. On the outset, many of these panels can look similar—their titles are formed from climate change jargon and their descriptions often belie the highly politicized nature of the debates.

For instance, at a packed meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) focusing on agricultural issues, the United States expressed interest in disregarding the division between mitigation and adaptation, citing the “synergies” between the two. The U.S. representative spoke of this differentiation as a “false dichotomy.” In contrast, China, India, and many other developing countries cited the extreme importance of the differentiation, and threw their support to increased focus on adaptation techniques. What may seem like semantics (and indeed Australia stipulated that discussion of terminology is “unnecessary and not useful”) is in fact a highly contested debate over where to focus SBSTA goals for agriculture.

At an event on the Bioeconomy directly after the SBSTA meeting, Teresa Anderson from Gaia and the African Biodiversity Network made clear the real issues at play in the debate. She contends that countries with higher emissions, like the United States, talk about synergies in an attempt to push for a mitigation focus. Furthermore, she says they are unwilling to actually make their own commitments to the mitigation measures they propose. The argument from the developed country perspective is that after using mitigation, the adaptation will follow suit and the two will be essentially the same. Anderson admits that this is sometimes the case, but adds that “the institutions pushing it are big industrial agriculture. That’s very suspicious.” She worries that it will not be “the agro-ecological strategies and small-scale farmers, but the biotechnology companies who are going to benefit” with products like GMO soy.

Indeed, in a panel on Engaging Communities in Sustainable Landscapes with Enhanced Adaptation and Lower Emissions, a representative for the Rainforest Alliance seemed to be inadvertently making the same point. Touting the number of big-name companies sponsoring Rainforest Alliance sustainable land use programs, he showed a slide of logos including Dole, Chiquita, Nestle, and myriad other large agro-businesses.

In the words of Dr. Taghi Farvar, Member of the Union of Indigenous Nomadic Tribes of Iran and Chair of the International Consortium on Indigenous and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs), “we are falling into traps.” It’s a story we’ve heard all too many times: we are focusing too much time, energy, and too many resources on creating complex false solutions that may well leave us with more problems than when we began.


Arabs; take the lead! Qatar climate march

Thousands of activists from across the Arab region and around the world marched in Doha, this morning.  They demanded urgent action to address climate change at the UN negotiations taking place until the end of next week (7 December). The march is thought to be the first ever event of its kind in the history of modern-day Qatar.

The Head of the U.S. delegation wants you to know that the most fundamental decisions about U.S climate policy have already been made – not here in Doha, but back at home.

First, some brief background. The United States and the EU are the second and third heaviest polluters in the world. The emissions of a number of other large developing countries (see the BASIC Coalition, which includes India and China) are also climbing. Although all of these major players are already involved in emissions reductions, much more remains to be done. According to the UNEP Gap Report, all emissions reductions pledges in place now – if they are indeed implemented – will only go about halfway towards keeping global emissions below the 2°C ceiling. 

In a new book from the What Next Forum, the basic question of the negotiations over emissions reduction is stated as follows: “How should a global carbon budget be distributed between Annex I (broadly OECD countries) and non-Annex 1 (broadly non-OECD) countries… between industrialised parts and the industrialising and less wealthy parts of the world?”

At a recent COP18 panel, Australian climate expert Matthew Stilwell from What Next gave a brief answer: “All countries must do more, but some must do more than others.” Delegates on both sides of the Annex divide give credit to this notion – the technical term is “common but differentiated responsibility,” and it is an accepted guiding notion of the UNFCCC.

Heavily populated non-Annex 1 countries, as well as many developing nations and small island states, argue that wealthier Annex 1 nations have a special responsibility to take the lead in emissions reductions.  Many who make this argument cite concerns of climate justice and equity (for more on this concept, please see this handy Earth in Brackets guide). However, while claiming to support development goals, the United States often counters that Annex I countries should not have to invest in climate change mitigation efforts while Annex II countries are not bound to the same targets.

An EU representative speaks on the KP at a UN plenary. The United States does not plan to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol.

This argument does not get us where we need to be in the current negotiations. Climate science indicates that too much time has been wasted in diplomatic gridlock already, and that the slow pace of international climate negotiations will have destructive consequences. Even if all emissions are stopped today we will be locked into warming for decades. People will suffer if changes are made immediately, but if they are not, the suffering will be greater.

No nation has public funds to spare, especially under present economic conditions. However, if economics are your main concern, the damage done to any nation’s GDP in the course of emissions mitigation and adaptation is decidedly more efficient – and comes with a far lower social cost – than does disaster response down the line.  There is little disagreement over the basic scientific and economic argument for early action. So why is ambition to sign on to binding reductions targets so low?

Though there are many reasons, one problem is domestic politics. On Wednesday evening, U.S. delegation leader Jonathan Pershing spoke in a closed-door session to NGO representatives from around the world. He spoke on a range of issues, from finance and technology transfer to the important work of the various Ad Hoc working groups at the conference. The message I left with, however, was that on the most important issue to many of the attendees in the room – the scale of the US mitigation pledges and refusal to consider a legally binding agreement until after 2020 – there is essentially no room for discussion or individual choice. It is simply impossible to impose the necessary measures with congressional approval.

A young protestor in Doha (December 1, 2012)

The political stagnation is no one’s fault. Politicians respond to incentives, and the incentives to break our current climate stalemate are simply not yet there. However, it is sometimes difficult to accept this while those with the most power to take action through international cooperation are right here with us in Doha. Though the memos, long hours, and bureaucratic minutiae can cloud the issue, the fact remains that a great many lives are at stake based on the decisions made by the UN delegates. Though we still have one week of negotiations before they disperse, it is disappointing to watch representatives who have travelled so far progress so slowly on the path towards a safer world.
– Chloe

(with a fabulous opening montage. the music makes it all worth it.)



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