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COP25 Dispatch: Multilateral Climate Change Negotiations: Inefficient or Invaluable?

After five days at COP25, the inefficiency of the negotiations has frustrated even the most idealistic NU delegates. Throughout the week, we have been confronted by exhibits and side events that forecast a dismal future in the face of climate inaction, but the urgency of these projections has evaded consultations among the Parties. Although #TimeForAction is written on the walls of every room throughout the venue, this message rings hollow when considered against negotiations that focus on quibbles over synonymic phrasing and procedural issues rather than adaptation strategies to avert the impending climate emergency.

While the facilitation of multilateral cooperation to address the climate crisis is undoubtedly noble and has helped to raise awareness of climate change among the general public, it seems clear that the COP, as it currently exists, is ill-equipped to tackle this crisis in a way that appropriately addresses the urgency of the issue and adequately includes the voices and needs of those most affected by climate change.

The unhurried tone of the negotiations contrasts starkly with the perspectives of indigenous peoples and youth, which are only amplified outside of formal spaces. Justifiable concerns over land rights and false solutions that are hostile to systemic change are pressed in these side events, but there is a profound disconnect between what happens in these forums and what is discussed during consultations among the Parties.

Despite my disillusionment with the negotiation process, attending COP has been an invaluable experience that has left me feeling more hopeful about the climate crisis. While many important perspectives and issues are missing from the formal negotiations, the countless individuals who showed up to challenge the status quo and put pressure on Member States to deliver inclusive and particularized solutions are an inspiring and welcome reminder that all hope should not be lost. Simply attending side events and being exposed to a diverse set of climate change concerns will allow many attendees to continue their work in the environmental field more deliberately and inclusively.

There is much work to be done to abate the climate crisis, and even if not much is accomplished within the negotiations, at the very least, the COP presents a forum where the next generation ofclimate leaders can gather to learn from one another and make progress at the subnational level. What COP fails to deliver in terms of ambitious state action and multilateral solutions, it makes up for in its function as an incubator for progressive idea exchange among individuals concerned for the future of our planet.

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