Hot on Heels at COP 24

I start this blog post with that provocative title because this was literally my experience at my very first COP 24 session in Katowice, Poland. For those who may not understand some of the abbreviations allow me to give a quick intro:

COP – Conference of Parties

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

YOUNGO – Youth NGOs also the official youth constituency to the UNFCCC

PAWP – Paris Agreement Work Program

I got into the whole COP negotiations coffee-crazed, sleep deprived, life changing session because of a thing my organization did with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. That is another story for another day. So this thing, allowed me to earn the privilege of participating in the GSCSY (sorry another acronym) short for Global South Climate Scholarship for Youth, where I met amazing youth advocates from all over the world, literally. I am talking three continents from the global south with a rich diversity in culture and the way we all view how climate change affects us.

I am primarily a finance person. Finance and maths oriented. Give me numbers and I will crunch, or even guess the correct one 80 percent of the time. (I tested this theory out on a plane once, when the audio sets took a holiday that trip and games were all I had at my disposal). Any way where was I? Yes, finance. You see I strongly believe in this thing that even the best intentions need some form of resource backing for them to come to fruition. It may not be monetary, but most times manifests as such. And so we cannot go on talking about climate justice, and climate adaptation and mitigation measures without critically analyzing the “means of implementation”. I mean, just how on earth are we going to bankroll this 100 billion dollar investment needed – eh?

Enter COP, specifically COP at Katowice, Poland. For those who were there, we all know that the entire venue was ironically built atop a coal mine. Fancy that! Even more exciting, was the fact that everyone spent at least an hour getting from one room to the next, because side events were located in this far off pavilion, and the negotiations were happening in this other hidden part of the dome. (I’m kidding… no I’m really not).

And so I found myself in the virginity of my first COP torn between running to a really interesting side event and entering an inf-inf on the adaptation fund and GCF. Of course the two latter won every time… except for when the GCF had one of those first hand “you only heard it from us” presentations that fed into the climate negotiations and boy was I glad I attended those. Also for the chance to ask these tough finance guys the hard questions, like for example “why is there an intense readiness program that does not benefit the vulnerable community in the times they need it the most?” Still had no luck getting that one answered.

This was my very first dalliance with the GCF, and I did fall in love, with it and with finance. Running after heads of delegations and key negotiators to arrange bilaterals to discuss why “financing for loss and damage” was being tip-toed about like sharp knives on thin ice, and ululating at BLT (another acronym) briefings on the insertion of “gender responsiveness” in the text. and just so you know, the texts are the exactly the point! And don’t get me started on the sandwiches. Luckily, we discovered this AMAZING Thai food being served “for free” and it was honestly the best thing that happened to me food-wise.

COP is a real high. Be ready to drink from its chalice and savor it. The experience will definitely give back to you what you give it. Minimum involvement will obviously mean, missing out on hearing the #GretaThunberg address a group of young people and the Secretary General himself in a closed meeting. It will also mean missing out on drafting position statements and policy papers (I loved these!) that get broadcast at a press briefing, or being selected to give the opening statement at the opening plenary of COP 24. Now, who would want to miss all that!

And as if that is not enough, COP promises to give you not just the very best connections, but transformative experiences,  waking up at five in the morning to catch a 7 AM bus to a venue one and a half hours away in the freezing snow, or jumping on the wrong bus with your colleagues and having your fingers freeze out because the two of you got too tired to bother finding out where your beds were, and too hungry to care anymore (Poland has the best french fries I have tasted so far!), or getting pulled over to play a “climate blind date” on an amazing project started out by young people, or just simply sitting in an empty room at COP, a bunch of young people brainstorming the night away. It’s all there. All of it.

I am still keenly watching the financing mechanisms and instruments that have been proposed and introduced in the PAWP, including “multilateralism”. As a side note, I believe that the private sector, private banking and multilateral finance are one of the ways we could possibly reach the funding target for climate finance. I also strongly believe that more needs to be done on innovating financing for loss and damage, as is being discussed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Green bonds are just a start.

Oh, if you’re a Ms. please don’t make the mistake of wearing heels… or do, if you can run in them. 😉

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