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COP25 Dispatch: Observations from a Newcomer

COP25 week two has begun with a buzz. Coming off of the first week where representative, parties, organizations, and observers alike were getting the feel for issues and collective positions. Week two, on the other hand,  has taken on a different feeling. With pressure to conclude negotiations by Friday a more serious tone has set in. As a fresh face to COP25, both as a newcomer as well as having just arrived a few days ago, there have been a few key observations that have become apparent to me thus far.

  1. Coalitions have formed. It is easy to see that certain countries seem to continue to be aligning with one another on policy issues and proposals. Namely, European Union, Australia, and Canada seem to often agree with one another on issues that are being hotly debated. This, of course, is a generalizable statement and doesn’t include small details or every issue. Simultaneously, China and India have seemed to quite often agree along with many developing countries making common arguments about financing and their current positions for development and needs in a climate changing world. While these coalitions are valuable in creating some unity, there still remains the effort of unifying these coalitions to one final agreement. As a result meetings, such as that on Article 6, have gone deep in to the night and are expected to continue to go on well in to the late night throughout the week.
  2. A “Just Transition” is at the forefront for activists. In light of the conference being moved from Chile to Madrid the rights of workers and historically oppressed peoples have been parts of discussions in many side meetings. These meetings are lead by those in the climate community who are not part of the negotiations but aim to bring informative panels and discussions on relevant climate topics to COP25. Many of these side panels have discussed the need for a “Just Transition” meaning that a transition to a climate sustainable and resilient world must consider groups like workers, women, minorities, and otherwise underserved communities. A general consensus amongst the panelist and group discussions seems to be that voices from these groups must be included in any viable future otherwise economic, health, and accessibility disparities will continue to prevail.
  3. The backpacks vs. the suits. As another COP25 attendee put it to me, there seems to be a clear distinction between the suits and the backpacks. By this, he meant that there are those who are here on business, typically older and in suits, and then there are those who are younger who are carrying backpacks, wearing progressive t-shirts, and creating activist noise and protests. This apt description can be seen throughout the conference and the voice of the young seem to be greater than ever. Greta Thunberg arrived, spoke with, and lead a rally of young people while eight-year-old Zozo climbed a lamppost outside of the COP25 conference center in a sign of protest. There seems to be a clear distinction between the young and the traditionalists and it sparks a sense of excitement about the future of climate activism.

As the remainder of week two of COP25 progresses I will look forward to seeing how these insights continue to develop and how my perceptions continue to change. As the end of the week nears I suspect that tensions will continue to increase as agreements need to be reached. It is my hope that throughout these negotiations, though, we continue to see underrepresented voices be heard.

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