Thursday, November 14th

Today was my final day at COP19, which I cannot believe. The past four days have been SO BUSY, but I think I speak for all the students here in saying that we have learned an incredible amount and are very excited to bring our new knowledge back to campus. As Caitlin (Lee) and I have continued to navigate the conference, we have been able to narrow our research project down, and are now specifically studying the integration of REDD+ programs into indigenous communities, and the conflicts that arise as a result.

I started the day with the Indigenous Peoples Organization meeting at 9 am. The president of the Peru delegation spoke about the plans for COP 20 in Lima, Peru that will occur next year, and how he plans to incorporate the indigenous people in the negotiations. The members of IPO concentrated on having a similar situation that occurred in Mexico in 2010, in which IPO was able to meet with country allies prior to the conference in order to talk strategy and create a shared message. They believed that this tactic greatly helped their voices be heard at the 2010 conference. The Peruvian leader acknowledged this desire, as well as proposing an IP pavilion at COP 20 in which the IP leaders could set up an exhibit to spread their ideas. The delegate also spoke to the logistics of the conference, and explained the process of getting indigenous people certified to come to the conference– he explained that he wanted to make the Visa process “fluid and efficient”.

After the Peruvian leader, a Venezuelan delegate spoke to the Pre-COP meeting of the ministers that will occur in October 14, in which leaders from 40-50 countries come together to discuss the COP. Instead of having a traditional meeting, called the Ministers Meeting, he proposed that the coming year would have two sections:  the traditional meeting, and a new proposal of a forum of movements and social organizations. This new meeting would incorporate all sorts of groups, from NGOs to trade unions to the IPO and beyond. The purpose is to stress the need of all groups who are “taking part in the future of our world” to work together, not just under the theme of climate change but also under social, political, and economic justice and equality.

The first side event I attended of the day was “Linking Adaptation and Mitigation to Address Multiple Risks: New Research Findings and Field Examples”, sponsored by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). CIFOR recently concluded research on how to combine mitigation and adaptation projects, and found that often times it is very beneficial to add adaptation measures to mitigation projects, but it is much less beneficial the other way around. This, researcher Bruno Locateli said, is because adaptation has a larger potential for integration into a variety of systems and has its own fund (The Adaptation Fund) to help with projects. Then, the panelists were able to speak of their various experiences, from planting mangroves along rivers in Vietnam to construct dikes to building energy saving stoves in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Today was Intergenerational Day at COP19, so there was a panel specifically catering to the youth where the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Ms. Christiana Figueres, spoke. She emphasized that she also feels frustration at the slow process of the negotiations, but it “is a marathon, not a sprint—you can’t let your frustration get in the way. We have to train every single day”. Although the intent was to encourage youth to keep a positive attitude and keep up their participation in the conference, in my opinion the speech did come off as slightly condescending and paternalistic (more on that later—this is just an update, I will discuss this specific event in a coming post).

This afternoon, the delegation was fortunate enough to have lunch with Scott Stone, a Washington University School of Law alum and practicing attorney who consults with the Dutch delegation.  Scott was generous with his time and shared his experiences and thoughts working in the international environmental negotiation arena.

After lunch, I headed for my second side event of the day, titled “REDD+ for Green Economy Development”, directed by the organization Conservation International. The panel highlighted the need for programs like REDD+ to work on a level beyond simple forest protection. The problem, panelist Richard McNally (from the Netherlands Development Organization) explained, encompasses social, economic, and institutional practices—therefore, “we need social, economic, and institutional solutions”. Peru has been working on implementing REDD+ programs in this way—they start at the community level, and work with the community to figure out what the people there need and want the most, and then slowly work up to the regional and national levels of the programs. And so far, these programs have been a huge success.

To wrap up the night, we had a great evening sharing our knowledge and stories with other university delegations from around the country. Vermont Law School hosted a small get-together in their apartment that included students from Brown, Duke, University of Montana, University of Waterloo, Swarthmore, and, of course, Wash U. It was a great chance to see what other people were doing here at the conference, as well as make connections with like-minded people. We hope to expand our connections into an actual network, which will allow students interested in research and policy based work to work together both at our respective homes and at the conference. Of course, this is looking far into the future, but I think we can make it happen!

WOW—what a crazy week, and I can’t believe it’s already over! More synthesis of information presented here will follow…. After I spend 18 hours sleeping on the planes tomorrow!