Today was my first day at COP25 in Madrid, and it was nothing short of incredible. As an international relations student working primarily in the climate space, I’ve long dreamt of attending a Conference of Parties, and today’s events were a great introduction to this transformative international climate negotiation.
Our Northeastern delegation arrived early in the morning and was immediately overwhelmed by all the action of the Convention Center. Just moments after arriving, we saw Greta walking by toward an unfortunately-exclusive press conference, guarded by dozens of security people. I think we were all pretty starstruck by the sixteen-year-old climate activist that many of us look up to. We spent some time getting a feel for the event, figuring out where some of the events we wanted to attend were located, and exploring the country pavilions.
I came in hoping to hear from US subnational actors, including executive branch officials and business leaders. I spent a couple of hours hearing from the We Are Still In coalition at the US Climate Action Center’s. We Are Still In is a coalition of nearly 4,000 cities, states, tribes, businesses, universities, healthcare organizations and faith groups that strongly oppose America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The coalition’s presence was enormous at COP25 today, and made a concerted effort to send the powerful message that while the Trump administration opposes strong climate policies, subnational actors are committed to preserving the planet. Al Gore made a surprise appearance at the evening reception, saying a few fervent words regarding the importance of subnational climate action and urgency to collectively.
I ultimately attended a couple of events at the Center, all of which I found inspiring and enlightening. I was able to hear from and connect with some really prominent individuals who shared valuable insights. These individuals included Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mayor Bill Peduto, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld, and various others. Alongside being a student, I work at Climate XChange as the manager of our State Carbon Pricing Network, a network of advocates and policymakers who work on state-level climate policy in the US. Being able to talk about my work with these individuals was incredibly rewarding and productive, and I made many valuable professional connections today. Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes was a particularly engaging speaker who provided some really candid insight on a new climate change task force the state is creating that will engage a wide range of governmental stakeholders.
One of my favorite conversations today was one I had with Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians. Fawn Sharp is an incredible leader for climate justice and indigenous rights, and was a key figurehead in Washington State’s 2018 ballot initiative to price carbon, which was ultimately defeated after oil and gas spent unprecedented money on propaganda.
In the evening, I attended a couple of events on the intersection between gender and climate change and learned about the powerful roles women around the world have played. One thing I noticed was that this event, despite being incredibly well-planned and eye-opening, was pretty empty and not one person in the audience was male. On the other hand, the We Are Still In and other events I had attended earlier were pretty male-dominated, so I’ll be interested to take note of this gender imbalance as the week continues. Overall, it was an incredibly first time and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has to offer!