I got kicked out of negotiations at COP23

I got kicked out of negotiations at COP23

Santiago de Chile-  a room that will be forever remembered as the room I got kicked out of.

From the beginning of COP23, I followed the negotiations on global stocktake. I went to every session I could – G77 coordination meetings, working groups, and most importantly, informal consultations between the co-facilitators and the parties. By the afternoon of the 14th of November, the negotiations on GST had come to a conclusion. The parties had agreed on the rough building blocks and after one iteration, they agreed on an informal note produced by the co-facilitators as well. So that was it. It felt like my road at COP23 had come to a premature end. I felt directionless and lost now that there were no more meetings for GST. So, I just decided to stumble into a meeting on climate finance – something Thomas had been following since week 1 of COP23.

As Thomas will admit, the first time you step into a climate finance session, you’ll feel more lost than navigating the streets of KL without Waze. As I got sucked into the multiple agenda items that were being discussed, one issue in particular stood out and slowly I recognized how much of a problem it would be over the next few days. The discussion over Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement was a contentious one that dragged out across the two weeks, leading to a delay in the closing of the COP. In a nutshell, Article 9.5 states that developed countries should communicate their financial contributions on a biennial basis. At the COP23 negotiations, this portion of the Paris Agreement was faced push back by developed nations as they feared the implied financial commitments that the article carries.

On Friday, 17th November, I attended an open-ended consultation on the Article 9.5 issue early in the day. Conclusions and consensus could not be achieved, so the session was adjourned by the presidency, represented by Fiji Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan. She called for a meeting between the heads of delegation later in the day. Thomas and I made it a point to be early.

We arrived at Santiago de Chile about 15 minutes before the heads of delegation session was scheduled to start. The room at the time was relatively empty. Half an hour goes by and the room slowly fills with people, from parties and from CSOs, until the room is at capacity. Thomas and I proceed to give up our seats and go to sit on the floor in the back of the room. This was a high-level meeting and we wanted to keep a low profile in case anyone deemed us undeserving of being in the room. In the end, us sitting on the floor made no difference, as a lady from the UNFCCC secretariat came over to us to kick us out of the room. We had every right to be there, but unfortunately the room was just way too full for people who were not part of a delegation to be in the room.

With our heads hung low, and feeling absolutely dejected, we left the room, along with a few other people. We stood outside the room for a solid 10 to 15 minutes, hoping there was a way for us to get back in. As we saw more people come to the session only to be turned away by the security guards, the hope started to fade. The guards were so firm that they even prevented the lead negotiator from Egypt from entering. At that point, Thomas and I decided to call it a night and head to a closing dinner with the rest of our MYD teammates. We felt like we were ending our COP23 experience on a low and felt quite disappointed for the rest of the night. Thankfully for us, our COP23 journey didn’t end there and little did we know, it was only the beginning of a long night ahead for us.


Written by Mike

Edited by Varun

Linking Science and the Global Stocktake

Linking Science and the Global Stocktake

On the 8th November 2017, the German Pavilion had a session on Global Stocktake: Information from the science.The session comprised of leading and influential figures from both the government and scientific fields. It was chaired by Ms. Eliza Norton of the World Resources institute, and the esteemed panelists were:

  • Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
  • H.E. Janine Felson, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Belize to the United Nations
  • Dr. Kiyoto Tanabe, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
  • Nicole Wilke, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
From the left towards right: Eliza, Nicole, Prof. Ottmar, Janine, Dr. Kiyoto

From the left towards right: Eliza, Nicole, Prof. Ottmar, Janine, Dr. Kiyoto

The session kicked off with a welcoming remark by Eliza, followed by an introduction of speakers. She then proceeded to moderate the session, with an opening question, “What does the global stocktake need to deliver? And how does science complements?”

Nicole was first to answer the question by pointing out that in order to stay below 2C or 1.5C, we need to take additional action. She said that we are still far from where we have to be, thus we need to take the opportunity, latching on the gap report that is coming out. There are two crucial questions that science have to deliver, which are;

  1. Where are we?
  2. Where do the opportunities lie?

The ‘Where are we?’ question reflects on how big of a gap we have to fill, in terms of mitigation, adaptation and resilience, as well as finance. For the second question, which is ‘Where do opportunities lie?’ refers to the need to mention non-state actors and CSOs, in order to get the momentum going.

Janine added that the global stocktake is a monumental task. She urged for policy makers to step out of the negotiating mindset, and instead looking at it as a catalyser. In order for a significant transformation to occur, we need to be progressive and aggressive. For example, start researching and looking into options of what countries have done in terms of adaptation, mitigation and finance, then proceed to see where we should start investing. She strongly stated that we need to start switching the gears of finance into a low carbon emission pathway. The science that we have need to be useful, especially to the policymakers. She conveyed that a successful global stocktake is one that information could be easily communicated across various sectors and interest groups.

Eliza then agreed with Janine, on her point that it is important to truly have that cooperation on a catalytic approach. Thus, there is a need to have design and modality to provide a space to carry out that conversation.

Moving on, the following question that Eliza put forward was regarding the relationship of science and the global stocktake, and how can science be the guiding principle for the global stocktake.

Prof. Ottmar gave a refreshing view on this. He said as former co-chair of IPCC, if one would like to reference science, there is a need to reform IPCC. He continued on by saying that some governments hate to talk about the past. In the case of emissions development, some governments even deleted graphs in policy papers. He is convinced that science need to deliver a coherent assessment and evidence based on policy analysis. However, we are currently in a situation where maturity of social science and economic research cat be delivered yet. There is a need for a new kind of funding in the research part. Referring back to the IPCC mandate, it was only a policy element with policy prescriptive. With this said, the content of IPCC can be fulfilled in terms of climate physics, but there is a problem when it comes to IPCC having to evaluate government policies.

Speaking from a current IPCC panel perspective, Dr. Kiyoto pointed out that the IPCC is currently putting together the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) and the SBSTA encourages IPCC to pay extra attention to GST. Hence, in the AR6, there is a specific mention of GST that can be found in the framing of Chapter 1. Dr. Kiyoto highlighted that a key area that is under the IPCC, which is the methodology report for national inventories. The Agenda Item 13 of the Paris Agreement, which is transparency framework for action and support, requires countries to submit report including national greenhouse gas emissions and the GST. All reports will be made available by 2023. He asked whether is there a need to align the assessment cycle with GST cycle, then suggested that perhaps IPCC establish a task force for the issue.

Before continuing on to the questions and answers session, Eliza asked on the gaps and considerations of the IPCC.

Nicole voiced out that there were multiple information and assessment on where we are as it has been developed quite a lot in past IPCC reports. However, in terms of GST, there are a lot to update. She called for the IPCC to continuously provide input. This was because when it came to cooperation, there is a gap on how to implement it. She mentioned that social science played a crucial role, especially in terms on working with instruments. An example given was on the NDC partnership that was launched by Germany and Morocco in COP22. More support is clearly needed, particularly in terms of ideas on how to better implement it.

Prof. Ottmar reiterated that he have no intention to have IPCC to change. Ideally, IPCC should carry out policy evaluation, however the function of IPCC cannot be replicated quite easily. He emphasised that we are now in a different phase. There is a need to prove that climate change is man made. We are now moving into a phase on “how” to do it, not “why” anymore. There is a need to merge scientific body evidence together with the science and policy interface, thus resulting in evidence based policy.

Janine continued on, saying that there are already own scoping exercise being carried out by colleagues on the ground in terms of science, policy and evaluation. With this process, it ensures that IPCC have strong legitimacy. She added that there is value in bringing information on other inputs.

Touching on the topic of GST, Dr. Kiyoto addressed that GST is not to evaluate each countries NDC. However, there is a need to carry it out in a manner that is facilitative. With that being said, we need to take into account each countries policy decision process. He also expressed that AR6 cycle needs to do something new.

Following on Dr. Kiyoto’s point on GST and NDC, Prof. Ottmar said that GST required careful analysis of different NDC. Metaphorically, he said that there is a need to have a common denominator for a central currency. He also further elaborated that we have to avoid using the stocktake as a blaming and shaming exercise.

Putting her perspective into words, Nicole shared that GST is an exercise, but not on an individual country level. It is obviously in the interest for each government if the policy delivers. In order for a collective analysis to be carried out, there is a huge need for science to develop tools for the multilateral process.

To conclude, Janine eloquently said that if we want an output, then we need to negotiate on an output. On the technical phase, we need to put it on papers. There is also a need to crunch data to make it easily communicated to those involved. It is more important to look at the outcome more than output.

The session then proceeded with Q&A session from the floor, before ending.

Graphic recording by Björn Pertoft, Visual Facilitator

Graphic recording by Björn Pertoft, Visual Facilitator

Written by Jasmin

Edited by Varun

Let’s talk about Talanoa

Let’s talk about Talanoa

“Where are we?

Where do we want to go?

How do we get there?”

Those three lines had been my much uttered mantra at COP23.

There were extensives talk about the Talanoa Dialogue – a term that I was first being introduced to at the Climate Action Network (CAN) Pre-COP Session on the 5th November 2017. Although the term was newly coined in light of the Fijian Presidency, the concept was not all that new.

From the COP decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20, it was mentioned to “convene a facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1, of the Agreement and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 8, of the Agreement”. Basically the Talanoa Dialogue is the much discussed Facilitative Dialogue. The informal note on the 1st November 2017 evidently stated that the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue would hereinafter referred to as the Talanoa Dialogue – a dialogue that incorporated the spirit of the Pacific Tradition of the Talanoa, which essentially means the traditional approach used in Fiji and the Pacific to engage in an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.

The big question is – how do we follow the discussion?

Guidance by CAN suggested two things:

  1. Talanoa Dialogue does not have an agenda item, thus discussion is done via consultation
  2. Through tracking the negotiations on Global Stocktake, APA Agenda Item 6

The preparatory phase has been clearly outlined in the informal note, setting a foundation for the political phase.

Although the structure has been clearly outlined, CSOs expressed that there is an absence of vision and dissatisfaction in the process. It was pointed out that the informal note does not mention the revision of NDCs. It was also a concern that the Fijians are consulting with every bilateral and blocks on the design of the Talanoa Dialogue, however they are not having an open discussion nor a  line by line negotiation. Even more so, CSOs have not seen any negotiating process for recognition of the dialogue.

Meanwhile on the negotiating end, the discussion revolves around the building blocks of the global stocktake, with equity being the centre of discussion. Among the prominent discussion that was being brought up was on how the global stocktake could possibly enhance the NDC, although it was not mentioned that the outcome of the global stocktake would affect NDC, nor GST being an instrument that would require NDC to ramp up ambitions. The technicalities regarding global stocktake was further discussed in APA Informals Agenda Item 6.

There is an apparent gap in discussions in regards with the Talanoa Dialogue, as it is a topic of utmost importance to the CSOs, however not heavily discussed by the negotiators. Regardless of how wide the divide is, the CSOs are adamant in capturing the consultations as COP decision. This would definitely carry more weight in moving forward past the preparatory phase, and into the political phase.

The political phase is planned to take place at COP24 in Poland, with the participation of Ministers. It will be implemented in the form of parallel roundtables, and the moderators will provide the Presidencies a summary of discussion from every roundtables. This is carried out in hopes to put together summary of key messages from the discussion, to put together in reports and summaries.

Even though we have frequently heard and ingrained in our minds the three questions mantra, it is  definitely not the end of it. The May 2018 Intersessionals will further explore the three topics with input from the IPCC 1.5C Special Report, policy inputs from Parties, stakeholders and expert institutions, as well as the guidance from the Presidencies.

Till then,

“Where are we?

Where do we want to go?

How do we get there?”


Written by Jasmin

Edited by Varun


People of COP

As a part of our “homework”, I have approached a couple of people I’ve met at COP and ask them a few questions. Find out more about these amazing people from different parts of the world working towards a better, more sustainable future.


Global South:


Global North:


Edited and Arranged by Xiandi

Youths of COP: Joanna Read

Youths of COP: Joanna Read

Youths of COP: A brief Q&A with people met at COP23.

Q: Please tell me about yourself.

A: I studied Geography at university, and absolutely loved it, and there learned about the scientific facts of climate change and how humans are causing this sudden spike (as well as looking at climate trends over hundreds of thousands of years). In my final year, I started to want to do something about it, but I’d never been an ‘activist’ before, got the opportunity to go to Bonn May Intersessionals in 2014, and haven’t looked back since. I have been to 7 UNFCCC conferences now (including COP21 in Paris and two other COPs), always as part of the youth constituency of NGOs, and worked on other campaigns with the international team of UKYCC (the UK Youth Climate Coalition) in between conferences.

Joanna was the YOUNGO global north focal point from 2016 to 2017.

Q: What inspired you to be involved in the fight against climate change?

A: I knew I wanted to help make the world a better place than I found it, but there were so many issues I cared about, and climate change seemed to be either causing it, or making it worse, or bound up in all the injustices I saw in the world. And it was something that had solutions, we just need the political will to take them on, and the investment to strengthen them further, and movements working intersectionally to create social change for good as well.

Q: What is the topic you are following closely for COP23 and why?

A: I followed oceans during COP23 because well I love sea turtles, and the marine world fascinates me, but also the oceans are such a major carbon sink as well as being seriously affected by climate change (rising temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification etc.) that it seemed not enough emphasis was being placed on the ocean’s role within the climate negotiations, but was starting to be recognised this year.

Q: What is your typical day at COP like?

A: Up and ready for a YOUNGO meeting first thing, where I find out what I’m doing during the day when we run through the daily schedule. Then it’s usually a working group meeting. Followed by maybe an action (mini demonstration inside the conference center) or sit in on a negotiation and try to follow it! Lunch is usually squeezed in when running from one place to another, or meeting up with other youth organizations to discuss and share tactics and interests. The afternoon could be taken up by preparing for interventions (2-minute speeches that YOUNGO can give during the negotiations), or working on a blog/video with UKYCC or creating material for a YOUNGO press conference. And if there’s time – got to end the day with beer o’clock!

Q: Could you share a little on your work as one of the YOUNGO focal points?

A: Along with Nouhad, we were the contact points for the UNFCCC Secretariat (admin body) to convey information about all the meetings and intervention opportunities, which we would then pass on to the rest of the young people wanting to get involved with international climate politics (there are quite a few!) and pass back any requests, or questions from the youth constituency. But it is also being a point of contact and coordinator from within YOUNGO, and helping people make the most of the opportunities that you get from this weird and wonderful space.

Q: What are the key messages you would like to share with youths in general?

A: Get involved, however you can. Climate change is going to be the defining challenge of our lives, don’t you want to be part of the solution? If you can’t follow the negotiations in person or don’t understand the politics, then read some of the many summaries about what’s going on (ECO or Climate Tracker are good places to start) during the conferences. But don’t forget that politics starts at home. All the negotiators will come to the conferences with their red lines already set by the government back at home. We need to mobilize as many people to hold our representatives to account, and we do that in numbers. So talk to anyone and everyone about why you care about climate change, and you’ll find that other people get interested because you are, maybe not all, but every conversation helps and who knows where it might lead.

Content and Media Provided by Joanna Read

Edited and Arranged by Xiandi

Humans of COP: Cuifen Pui

Humans of COP: Cuifen Pui

Humans of COP: A brief Q&A with people met at COP23.

Q: Please tell me about yourself.

A: Hello! My name is Cuifen. I have been an environmental scientist with DHI, a global environmental not-for-profit for the last 15 years. In my day job with DHI, I help leaders make better decisions that they can communicate with confidence by transforming knowledge grounded in good science into visuals and information that they can relate to and analyze. My first degree was in biology, and so when I first started out, I had the opportunity to conduct surveys in mangroves and other forests, as well as the marine waters. I worked a lot on environmental assessment and monitoring projects and more recently shifted into climate change and disaster risk projects.

Cuifen has a multifaceted involvement in the climate change scene.

A few years into my career, I decided to take a gap year to do Masters in Applied Environmental Science in Australia. I totally loved what I was learning and experiencing, and this helped me understand the why we do what we do at DHI. I signed up for various things I didn’t imagine I would get into. One of these was a 2-week Youth Encounter with Sustainability Course, which helped me connect the dots, re-learn what I thought I already knew, gained a lot of new perspectives and understanding. A huge part of this was the exposure to classmates from all around the world, realizing we are so similar and yet different, hearing their stories and being inspired by what other youths are doing.

When I was doing my Masters, I also came across a street of edible gardens, that totally took my breath away and helped me internalize a lot of what I was experiencing and learning. You know, it is the moment the lightning hits, and you kind of gain “enlightenment”. I started Googling about the edible gardens street and was inspired by what I saw. I started going to talks etc to gain new knowledge in a more conscious way, rather than just being a participant. I was still not ready to take any action, but I was really curious and ready to learn.

When I came back to Singapore, I continued my learnings by going to Green Drinks Singapore monthly talks and joining Nature Society (Singapore) on walks/learning opportunities. It helped me find a bit of what I valued in Australia here in Singapore, and also gain broader perspectives and understanding on who and what is in Singapore’s environmental landscape.

I had the opportunity to create my vision of edible garden with my neighbors. This led me to create Foodscape Collective, after learning that people in Singapore hold so many stories and knowledge of our foodscape. After much ground-up work, I felt very much in tune with what me, my neighbors, the people I met want.

I started wondering what the policy makers / global leaders negotiate for when they make decisions and agreements about our collective future. My interest was especially sparked when in 2015, I joined ASEAN Power Shift as a policy delegate (despite knowing nuts about policy) and doing a 1-month climate perception survey focusing on youths. In a few weeks, we had ~200 responses, many of them youths (the non-youths do want to have their say also!). Many of them were less than 15 years old, and a 10-year-old called me to say how she spent 45 minutes working on it because she really wanted her voice heard. I wanted to find my way to COP21 to hear what our Singapore leaders and global leaders say, and especially to tell our local leaders what the youths, especially the younger ones, want them to hear.

So, a couple of months before COP21, Lastrina who organized ASEAN Power Shift contacted me and said there is an opportunity to do so. We just need to start a network of climate change-focused youth leaders here in Singapore. As we discussed and Melissa came on board also, we started thinking of “Singapore Youth for Climate Action” as a name for this network. With the support of Mark of Avelife Foundation and various individuals, we made our plans to go.  Lastrina contacted the Minister; I got in touch with the negotiators. Just before we boarded the plane, we launched the SYCA FB page.

Cuifen is one of the founder of SYCA.

Q: What inspired you to be involved in the fight against climate change?

A: I think the sustainability course, as well as some coaching courses I took to build the courage to live life the way I want to, really made a difference. It has been a bit of a balancing act though – there are opportunities where I could speak up from a citizen / civil society/youth perspective, that I choose to give up given my role in the environmental sector. Must one’s passions remain separate from what we do at work so that we can clearly differentiate what a person says in the context of work/industry / civil society/citizen? These are questions I still ask.

Q: Could you highlight one of the projects you or your organization is involved right now?

A: This year is the Singapore Year of Climate Action, and we have been actively engaging various people in the Government Agencies on climate action-related initiatives. For SYCA, we are curating a second round of Learning and Learning Program.

We are also preparing a write-up of our COP22 experience, and hope to share that publicly on end Feb. At this point, SYCA team (7 of us) have our own initiatives that are inspired by what we learned through SYCA or other initiatives. Pamela has just started Tingkat Heroes and is collaborating with her university and secondary school, food stalls, retailers and civil-society organizations to bring about a huge change in use of disposables by ~10,000 students. Jeremy is looking to create Skillsfuture courses that the public could sign up for, to learn about various aspects of climate action in Singapore context. Lastrina is starting a reading club (need to learn more about this myself). 

For me, I am working on an “Environmental Day” in my neighborhood. Besides that, I am also talking to artists to see how we can convey climate stories in a way that people can really understand right away (still exploring).

Q: What is your typical day at COP? Are there any topics you are following in this COP? Can you highlight some similarity and/differences between COP23 and your previous cop?

A: I have attended COP21, COP22, and COP23. Each COP has been a hugely different experience for me.


I wanted to follow negotiations and was very frustrated when I couldn’t understand what they were discussing on, and especially so when they can “quarrel” over the same paragraph for an entire afternoon. I started going to side events and realized that a lot of what I do at the workplace is being showcased at COP21, just by other organizations. I was especially thankful that farmers were there (first COP that farmers got to represent themselves), indigenous people were there, tribal leaders were there…

I was especially thankful to Mel Low, fellow Singaporean from Energy Studies Institute, for helping me to understand what was discussed, and leading by example on what a youth actively following negotiations can achieve. I was especially happy that I helped my team and other Singaporeans to connect with and learn from our local negotiators. I was also thankful that I talked to random people in the bus etc, for many of these people are from places I may never have heard of or thought to connect (e.g. Ministers), and learned so much just by interacting with them, listening to their stories, and capturing their 1-min videos.


I was busy working on projects for my day job and wasn’t able to fully participate in the ongoings of COP22. There was so much I missed! I was really thankful to speak on behalf of UNEP-DHI on water projects that were carried out in Africa region. This was one of the few opportunities that helped me to try to understand how my work / personal interest can sometimes collide, and support one another. Because of this, I connected more with the Africa leaders


I was still a little unsure of what I wanted to focus on really. I decided on the first day to follow a series of APA discussions, as limited passes were available at the RINGOs daily meetings. RINGOs is a “home base” of researchers, scientists, educators. Although SYCA is about youth empowerment, we are also about inclusivity and following areas that are your personal strengths/passions. I felt that I wanted to give RINGOs a try as they fit better with my sense of work/personal identity. Turns out, although the other Observer organizations also have passed to the APA discussions, RINGOs was the only constituency that encouraged people with passes to give back by taking notes. My initial notes were not that great, they put it up on RINGOs website anyway. Other RINGOs members told me how useful the notes were, especially if they were not able to attend the session. This helped me to want to go to the discussions, take good notes, understand what is discussed, and share with others. I realized that although I still don’t know everything (and sometimes do go into the wrong rooms), I had come a long way from when I first started in COP21. The note-taking also sparked an interest in draft interventions on behalf of RINGOs, and in particular, to present at the APA closing meeting. The drafting process, which included reading and contributing to other interventions done on behalf of RINGOs worldwide, was one of my major highlights for COP23.

At all 3 COPs, we met with the Singapore negotiators and Minister. I’m still trying to learn how best to engage them (as we didn’t want them to meet us, only to have yet another coffee shop chat). I feel encouraged by the interactions we have, and also how Singapore has positioned herself to take climate action seriously from 2018 onwards.

Q: What are the key messages you would like to share with youths in general?

A:  Growing up and even up to my mid-20s, I had no clue on what I wanted to do with life. I was merely following the crowd. If my friends like steak at a certain restaurant, I would want to go there too. If there was a leather bag that a popular girl in school was carrying, I wanted an exact same too. This was quite ok for a while until it came to a point – I realized I was not living to the values I hold to be important, I felt my voice to be not important. So even though I had friends, I felt I didn’t have anyone to truly turn to. Taking climate action is one of the “what” I chose to do, after realising what I hold important to me. There is still a way to go. I may have started 4 community initiatives, but there are so many more things to learn, to be, to unlearn.

Everyone is on a personal journey, and where you are at right now is OK. Understand what you hold important, where you want to be, and know that there will be roadblocks ahead that you can and will overcome. Have the resources you need with you, and have good relationships with people you meet. No matter what, remember your health comes first! I realized this the hard way last year when my health really suffered. It is a huge challenge to live to your “responsibilities” and other commitments you may have. Take care of yourself, be a leading example of what it means to truly live a sustainable life starting with you and the steps you can take to move forward.

Content and Media Provided by Cuifen Pui

Edited and Arranged by Xiandi