It is my last day at the UNFCCC COP 19 Global Climate Change Negotiations., and it is time to reflect. I should first say that I definitely set the bar low for what to expect from the COP. Arriving in Warsaw, I knew that no serious solutions to any of our serious problems would be resolved in these two weeks. Call me a cynic, or maybe even a pessimist, but I don't really have faith in the UN, or these climate negotiations that have gone on for the past twenty years. And while no one likes a downer, I feel justified in feeling down. Bottom line: climate change disrupts the world's populations disproportionately, and the downtrodden, mostly people of color, are hit first and worst by ever intensifying climate-related chaos. The very recent and devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan left over 4000 lifeless brown bodies tangled in the rubble of their neighbors houses. And in case you didn't realize, 1000 children from around the world died today as a consequence of climate change. Within the next 50 years, climate change will force 15-37% of species to extinction. So when I heard, "This is a marathon, not a sprint," during the intergenerational panel organized for Youth organizations to interact with high level officials (like Christiana Figueres herself) here at the COP, I have to be honest I was pissed! And when Chritiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, sat on that panel and talked about how as a mother she feels our frustration, only to end up talking about her dreams of a future green world (with reference to the most environmentally sustainable technologies we have yet to fully develop), and not once mentioned the young men and women who cannot imagine their future because it has been so clearly compromised, I was pissed.
We do not have time to run a marathon, especially when the one doing the running (the UNFCCC) is severely crippled from the start. I acknowledge that this is a complex issue requiring an overwhelming amount of effort to pull this world together (194 Countries) and get things done. Yet this alone is not responsible for the lack of significant progress on addressing climate change.
First, there is a general lack of urgency. Most delegations seem to talk the talk, without walking the walk. Urgency requires action. The fact that today alone 1000 children will have died should provide urgency enough. Instead of trying to get things done NOW, the general mission of the COPs is to get something done in the future (i.e. everyone speaks of the big deal in 2015).
Not only is there a lack of general urgency in the COP, but there is also the lack of a sense of injustice/justice among the people that are making the decisions. While delegations from the Global South belabor the idea of historical responsibility, those they deem historically responsible refuse to bear that burden. Meanwhile, entire cultures drown under rising sea and people struggle to grow food on already thirsty lands. Those who suffer most are the least responsible. This is an issue of justice., and until it is seen as such by all parties involved in the global negotiations, not much progress will be made.
As frustrated as I am with the UNFCCC process, I find that I'm also inspired. The whole idea of bringing together the entire to world to solve a global issue like climate change is in itself audacious. It was such a beautiful experience to be surrounded by the extreme melange of faces, bodies, shades, gestures, mannerisms, and languages.. I have left Poland with a feeling of openness to the world that I've always had in theory, but never quite held so viscerally. It plagues me to know that with each day that passes without taking significant action on climate change, we edge ever nearer to the erasure of this world's brilliant diversity.
I know more than ever that I must play my part in preserving this global diversity of people and place, animals and plants, and I urge the leaders of the world to do the same.