Justice is Not Just a Word: It’s Life.

Last night, I had a dream that I went to the conference center where COP19 is taking place this year in Warsaw, Poland and they let me in without checking my credentials. I floated through security after getting my bag checked. I was able to go to all of the meetings I wanted to go to, participate in a solidarity action for the Philippines, and get a lot of meaningful work done with the women and gender caucus… but that was just a dream.

In reality: climate change induced Typhoon Haiyan has torn the Philippines apart, the negotiations are opening with false promises, and the entire conference being hosted to halt climate change is being sponsored by coal. Am I living a nightmare instead?

It’s a very odd thing to be sitting in my hostel, working on homework and blog posts while the rest of my friends, it seems, are inside of the National Stadium in Warsaw watching the COP open. Due to what the convention center is claiming as a limit in capacity, only 9,000 people were allowed into the negotiating venue this year. These cut backs have severely limited many delegations, especially from civil society. This has left many people wondering: is the UN trying to limit the voices of civil society as we head towards a 2015 deal in Paris?

My own delegation started off with a little over a dozen people planning on attending the conference. As the accreditation situation became more and more restricted, we saw one member at a time drop, drop, drop from our delegation. Yesterday, my delegation (who is now a group of 8 people; with only 4 of us going in each week), heard the news that the Polish government refused visas to 50 accredited people from Nigeria. Why? (Alleged) reasons varied from “accreditation was not reason enough to enter the country” to “no proof of sufficient funds to leave the country after the conference ends”. This is very upsetting to me personally for the blatant racism, classism, and overall injustice involved in why they didn’t receive visas. Why is Poland trying to keep more participants from African countries out? Where is the justice in keeping people from countries who are not among the top polluters out of the conference, hell- out of the host country?!

As long and tiring as the process of COP is, I’m glad that myself and other people who are just that- people– are still attending the conference to remind our negotiators that climate change is a matter of life or death. It seems, however, that the powers that be don’t want those of us who are most affected by climate change (women, youth, developing countries) to speak out and to remind negotiators that we are human not just a list of technical terms and statistics.

But we won’t be silent. We’re going to fight to be heard. Justice will be had.

More than ever, we need to make it obvious that we aren’t going to stand for corrupt governments driving the negotiations away from progress. We need to make it know that we are not okay with the intermingling between our environmental agencies and governments with the fossil fuel industry (cough- coal funded COP19- cough). We need to make it known that prejudice should not and cannot be a reason why people are kept from sharing their experiences, knowledge, and opinions at the international level.

Don’t just make a wish- let’s make it happen.

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“Do I smell a hippy?”

First Flight. Done. One down and two more to go.

The woman behind me was eating an onion sandwich that was filling the entire cabin with the strong odor of, well… onions. As passengers continued to board, one of them walked past my aisle and said loudly “do I smell a hippy?”. The woman behind me, I’ve come to conclude, was trying to out me before we even left the ground. It worked.

I guess my gear outs me, too.
I guess my gear outs me, too.

Three and a half hours, 2 homemade habanero jack quesadillas, and a 50 page Climate Action Network (CAN) summary about the work to be done at COP this year later, I find myself sitting at my next gate in the D.C. airport. Everywhere around me are people speaking French, German, Dutch, and what might even be Polish. Thus starts the international leg of my journey and being the youngest person by far at my gate I and reminded that I’m pretty lucky to be going to COP (and also how many challenges and privileges being a “youth” in a primarily “adult” space presents).

As I was reading the CAN report, aptly titled “Warsaw: On the Road to Paris” I was struck with how many abbreviations and moving pieces within the UNFCCC that I still don’t know about. What I can say with confidence is that there are so many amazing ideas and projects that if implemented could really do some amazing things! On the other hand. Reading more about how the U.S. really does nothing but stall progress and not follow up with their promises makes me ashamed and frustrated. This is the year to get our negotiators to finally hear us. There is no reason that we should not be able to come to a binding treaty by 2015!

CAN sums it up nicely: “The scope, structure and design of the 2015 agreement should be consistent with a 1.5oC global carbon budget with high likelihood of success, including targets and actions within an equitable framework that provides the financial, technology and capacity building support to countries with low capacity. It should be serious about ensuring sufficient support for dealing with the unavoidable impacts of climate change. It should be built on, developing and improving the rules already agreed under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention including transparency through common and accurate accounting and effective compliance processes, respecting the principles of equity. The form of the 2015 agreement should be a fair, ambitious and legally binding protocol… There won’t be an ambitious 2015 deal without equity and there won’t be equity without an ambitious 2015 deal.”

Off to Brussels and onwards to Warsaw!

Parka. Packing. Poland.

I’ve starting packing my bags. Wool socks? Got ’em. Parka? Just arrived in the mail. It’s going to be a difficult change going from 80 degree weather in Texas to the 40 degree highs in Warsaw, but I’m definitely ready to be back at the COP and to travel to Europe for the first time!

My first year of COP I was really there just to learn and try to understand this ridiculous, wonky, frustrating, and rewarding conference. This year, my focus is continuing my work with the Women and Gender Caucus: a collective of women from around the world combining our fields of knowledge to make sure that all bodies of the UNFCCC take gender issues into consideration.

Our gender balance last year was a huge success and I can't wait to do more! Who knows: Maybe this year we can push for gender Equality!

I will be leaving soon to attend Power Shift Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)/the Conference of Youth(COY9) where I will be leading a workshop with a fellow delegate about integrating Anti-Oppression principles into the work that we, as youth, are doing at an international level to respond to climate change.

I’m especially excited for the release of a new monitoring system called the Environment and Gender Index(EGI), which compiles data from 75 different countries and reports the work they are doing to promote more gender-sensitive practices.

It’s hard to believe that it is already November and that 7 months worth of preparation and a year’s worth of waiting are finally coming to a close. It’s almost COP time!

A reminder from last year’s COP in Doha:

It's time.
It’s time.

Keepin’ it rollin’: HERE I COME, POLAND!!