It wasn’t easy finding my beloved 10 interviewees in COP21 that I managed to connect with.
Although interviewing youths in COP21 is a MYD task, I enjoyed it a lot because it is always full of surprises on who will say yes to your interview request; who actually said yes AND turn up for interview; and most importantly- the amazing stories behind all these young people. Totally worth the wait!
To the 10 of you out there, you all might never realised this, but I was truly inspired and I have learnt many things from your sharings. Thus, I have decided to write this article as a tribute to you all for spending your time and sharing your stories with us!
<3 p.s. You can view your interviews here (Part 1 & Part 2).
You have inspired me, by the very fact that you are physically here representing the youth from your country, and fighting hard for this cause! It is especially touching when you all shared your emotions with me on your ups and downs from pre-COP preparation till how you get to be here.
Many of you mentioned that youth voice wasn’t really heard in COP and not even in national level, youths have very limited interactions with their national delegations. It was much to my surprise that even in developed countries which I always looked upon are not performing well in youth engagement from the government side. This made me realised we are all on the same page and that we should help each other on this.
While reading through all your responses, I learnt that everyone have a role to play in COP21, everyone have their own definition of their “biggest achievement” in COP21. Some might sounds like a simple achievement like meeting people in COP21 but it may be something really big to that person him or herself! Same goes to me- I thought I am being non-achieving when seeing everyone else in my team achieving something that looks big to me. I was lost in the negotiations; I am not really an action-person; this left me wondering what can I actually do here?
But when I listened to your stories especially on side events that you all attended; I then realised we should always focused on the things that we can do, instead of the things that we cannot. And by that, I have actually achieved something big without me knowing it! It might not be some physical achievement, but deep in my heart, I knew I have learnt and grew- and I view this as a valuable achievement which cannot be measured by KPIs.
It also came to my realisation that having access to the blue zone enhanced your accessibility to both information and important people like negotiators; but it doesn’t mean that people without badges have less influence or less ability to contribute. Your responses reminded me of how youth nowadays are connected- using the technology and social medias in sharing information; and that is what make us united; and make us to be able to contribute equally despite of the accessibility to the venue. People outside can still connect with people inside to get first hand updates; people inside may also get help from people outside to connect with the movement out there. You taught me that it is always the collective effort that counts, and that’s what we always call for- solidarity.
Nevertheless, I really appreciate your time in answering my questions despite of your hectic schedules (some of you are even travelling while responding!). And thanks for being a source of inspiration in my COP21 journey! xoxo
Fun fact: I have no idea why most of my interviewees are female. I guess like attracts like. Even our interest are pretty similar too- gender equity! Stay awesome, peeps 🙂
Written by: Emily Oi
Throughout COP21, I bumped into many amazing youth figures from all around the globe and found their stories really inspiring! Now, sit back, relax, and read their stories that I have personally picked for you all 🙂
Jacqui Fetchet, Australia- Global Voices
This is Jacqui who won a scholarship from Global Voices, Australia to come to COP21. Global Voices is a youth leadership platform to provide Australian youth opportunities to attend local and international policy related forums. Jacqui aims to understand how UNFCCC negotiation systems and processes work, as well as to learn more about climate change and the people working on it around the world.
Prior to COP21, she was researching and studying the draft text of the Paris Agreement and understanding the history of the convention as it has evolved. She is particularly looking at the level of each parties’, or countries’, nationally determined contributions (NDC) and how they may be enforceable, if at all, through the ambition and compliance mechanism in the Paris Agreement. Jacqui is also interested in gender issues in climate change where she strongly believes that women have the capacity to be significant change-makers in addressing climate change challenges.
She shared that in Australia climate politics is complicated and is looking to see how her government will apply the Agreement back home. She is hoping to see the government improve their current NDC to set a higher and more ambitious target, as well as financing more climate change projects and initiatives. She also reflected that climate change is highly politicised in Australia, where many people, including the youth are aware of some issues but don’t really know what or how to act in response, despite the severe impacts Australia will face. She emphasised the importance of increasing education and communication to the youth and the broader community by focusing on the values and human stories of climate change.
Talking about her COP21 experience, Jacqui thinks that being bold and open minded as well as inquisitive and critical is a useful approach to participating in COP. In response to some of the ideas put forward at COP she said, “sometimes it seems that we have solutions but in fact, we might be creating more problems within the solutions.” She also thought that people need to keep looking beyond the COPs because the UNFCCC is not the universal solution for climate change and action needs to happen on the ground in our own communities.
Chris Hsiao, Taiwan- Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition (TWYCC)
Chris from Taiwan started to involved in climate change by joining TWYCC back in 2013. He is keen to join COP21 because that is the highest international decision-making body to combat global climate change issue; and he was hoping to leave an impact to the negotiation and make this a better agreement. Talking about his goal in COP21, Chris explained that he is particularly interested to understand how business sector is reacting towards climate change and how they involved their distinct stakeholder in this.
In addition, Chris is working on an interviewing project that aims to bring back stories of international youth as a source of inspiration to encourage more actions in Taiwan.
He have shared his new discovery in COP21 on how corporates showed concern on the formation of carbon pricing mechanism as well as their initiative on aggressively persuading their stakeholders to be part of the green commitment- which was not seen in Taiwan.
Also, Chris opinion after attending several actions in COP21 lead him to a realisation that actions is neither a form of protesting nor going against the government or the existing system. He sees this as a call from the people to ask for more solid and fundamental goals and that we all have to approach it by gaining collective ideas from around the world. That is why, actions always emphasized on solidarity.
Chris expressed his view on the Paris Agreement where he thinks this agreement is never expected to save the planet. In fact, it is just a guide. Thus, it is always touched to see how the climate movement is urging people to take action from different levels, because at the end of the day- we have to save ourselves, not by solely relying on the agreement.
Lisa McLaren, New Zealand- New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD)
Say Hi to Lisa from New Zealand Youth Delegation! Lisa is a Emergency Management Advisor back home. She had been to COP19 in Warsaw with the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.
This year, she was chosen as one of the co-convenors of the NZYD to guide and help the current delegates navigate around the COP21. Lisa explained that NZYD is a campaign team where their main goal was to engage people in NZ on climate change through both traditional and social media.
Prior to COP21, they did a nationally centred campaign for 4 months with a focus on asking the government to aim for carbon zero by 2050 as well as to create a plan to do this and develop a cross party working group for these issues to avoid the plans being interrupted by the political cycle. In COP21, NZYD campaigned heavily to get media back home showing the government’s’ misleading stance on climate change.
Lisa highlighted her experience at a side event about Fracking, where she learnt that many of the farmers were being affected by this form of extraction and it inspired her to learn more. She also valued hearing the first hand voice from the direct victims, like the farmers in this case. Lisa also shared about her biggest achievement in COP21 was NZYD getting New Zealand the first fossil of the day (tied with Belgium) because it managed to grab a lot of media attention and highlighted the government’s fossil fuel production subsidies.
Pui Cuifen, Singapore- Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA)
Cuifen is an environmental scientist with a not-for-profit (DHI) back in Singapore, and does a lot of ground-up community work focusing on earth-focused sustainable living and growing your own food movements. She and her team mates created Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) just before heading to COP21. The opportunity to attend COP21 came up 2 months before, when Cuifen was contacted by Lastrina who knew she carried out a climate perception survey in July as a ASEAN Power Shift policy delegate.
The COP21 journey was an experiential journey for Cuifen on what is being done at the policy level, and what the countries bring to the table. She followed the negotiations as best as she could, and felt thankful that other more experienced participants, such as Mel Low (from Singapore), were always ready to share their insights. She took the opportunity to reach out to the Singapore negotiators team, and managed to secure half hour of their time to have a honest dialogue with interested Singapore Observers at COP21.
Cuifen followed her passion in choosing side events, and focused on agroecology, protected areas, forests, REDD and indigenous people. She was thankful to see farmers being their own voice for the very first time, and the indigenous people given air time when they have something to say. She also got her team to start #PeopleofCOP21, an idea that came up on the bus after talking to a COP21 technician, who shared how his homeland is already affected by sea level rise.
Cuifen felt that at every stage of COP, there was a very real possibility that an agreement would not be reached. She is proud that her country ministers played a key role in differentiation, which was a sticking factor in the negotiations. Overall, the experience gave Cuifen hope, that no matter what happens, people will come together to make sure we get back on the right track. The only thing is time is not on our side, especially for vulnerable areas that already face impacts in their everyday lives.
Saffran Mihnar, Sri Lanka- Earth Lanka
Meet Saffran, a climate activist from Sri Lanka! He came to COP21 under Earth Lanka, a Sri Lankan environmental NGO that work on both journalism and community projects on local level to raise awareness. On a personal level, Saffran focused on the journalism part where he writes back to share his experience in COP21.
Among the events that he have attended, he was inspired by the collective efforts being done by the countries in Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) as showed in their pavilion event where he witnessed how different island countries are working hard to take measures and to come out with solutions. Saffran explained that more countries should learn from AOSIS on their collective spirit; by giving example of his concern on how Sri Lanka is facing a lot of difficulties especially their position in G77 & China grouping- where big countries were deemed to protect themselves more than the small countries like Sri Lanka which is more vulnerable.
Saffran was proud to mentioned that his article was being published on well known blog which he thinks is his biggest achievement in COP21. Regarding youth participation, he pointed out that the current youth involvement in Sri Lanka has to be improved a lot; and that the government should engage with youth more so that they understand about issues that government is facing. From his organisation level, Earth Lanka is planning to revive the youth parliament which is not functioning well after the new government took over.
Lastly, Saffran shared his own saying to end his interview with-
“Three things you need for the success of your life and to reach higher in the society:
- Follow your religion;
- The knowledge that you gain every single day; and
- Good Friends and Family in your life”
View Part 1 of the interview here
Interview done by: Emily Oi
p.s. I have wrote a tribute to my beloved interviewees too on how I got inspired by them and what I learnt from them. Check it out here!
Spot us talking to Dr. Gary after one of the meetings 🙂
MYD was lucky enough to get in touch with one of our main negotiator- Dr Gary Theseira during COP21. Thanks to the kind permission from our Minister of NRE, we managed to have close interactions with some of our Malaysians negotiators during COP.
We were sort of panicking in the beginning on how to talk to Dr Gary (you know, big shots haha). Luckily Dr Gary turned out to be quite friendly after our first few physical meetup with him- including one of our MYD training series by him. Few of our MYD members (Elaine, Jolene and I) have decided to follow him in COP21 together to kick-start our tracking Malaysian negotiators journey.
In the beginning, we managed to meet a few Malaysian negotiators who are always attending the same meetings with Dr Gary- Prof Gurdial, Miss Gan Pei Fern, Dr Elizabeth Philip and Malaysian observer from Third World Network- Meenakshi. But when time goes on, they all split and barely have time to meet each other physically too, thus their main communication platform is through social chat apps such as Whatsapp and Viber.
It seems that every negotiator have their own assigned Articles or topics to follow- so everyone know their job well. We got to know that Dr Gary is the coordinator of G77 and China, and focusing on differentiation theme as well- mainly Article 2 & 2bis. He attends the daily LMDC coordination meeting almost everyday too, which is chaired by another proud Malaysian- Prof Gurdial.
Our very first meeting that Dr. Gary brought us in. Took us some time to identify who is who; and took us awhile to “curi-curi” take this photo (lol). Try to spot Prof Gurdial speaking!
Besides knowing how the negotiators coordinate among each others, you must be wondering how are we really “tracking” them down? What do we do when we are following them? Do we talk to them?
Well, we mostly take note on whatever they raised up in meetings or plenaries (but Dr Gary is not among the vocal ones in most of the meeting that I attended) and yes, of course we talked to him, but we have very very limited time to do so, sadly; mostly due to the hecticness. We only managed to interact with Dr Gary when he is walking along the aisle or occasionally between breaks. Oh, and we tried staying till the end of meetings for the first few nights so we can actually have more time to talk to Dr Gary on the way back to our apartment. But this does not work for long, since our schedule doesn’t fit anymore afterwards. I personally plan to attend one of his coordination meeting for G77 & China to witness how Dr Gary coordinates- but it got cancelled :/ However, on the bright side, we are happy to gain positive feedback from some of the negotiators that they love to have us the youth delegation here, and they really need our help!
Overall, for the first week, I guess the tracking process with Dr Gary was quite fruitful, mainly because he is kind enough to share plenty of information and knowledge with us during his free time. Unfortunately, I thought our capacity is kinda limited to absorb all the things he told us (should have do more homework, uh!)
Written by: Emily Oi
This is how hectic and crowded Hall 6 can be. Spot the Climate Change TV behind!
After a few days of tracking and running around we found out that tracking negotiators is HARD. They are busy until they don’t even have time to eat. Their schedules are highly uncertain, as immediate changes or postpones or even cancellation of meetings are the norms. Meals and toilet breaks are on-the-run.
Based on our observations, negotiators are multi-tasking all the time. Their brain never stops, literally. You see them texting and typing during meeting; whispering with their team in between discussions. Everything is really intensed. They basically start their day at 8am with meetings, end their day at evening, sometimes after midnight (in the second week).
It took us some time to understand the different types of meeting. As I am mostly following the main text agreement, the meetings that I always went are those under the ADP ones. Other meetings by different bodies such as the Subsidiary bodies (SBSTA & SBI) and LPAA (Lima-Paris Action Agenda) are ongoing at the same time too.
Basically, ADP meetings consists of spin-off groups and contact groups. Contact group is an open-ended meeting that work on crosscutting issues and items not associated with agreement articles, where the parties negotiate before forwarding the agreed text for formal adoption in a plenary. Whereas spin-off groups work on the individual articles in draft agreement and their respective decision text.
Facilitators are appointed by the UNFCCC secretariat to facilitate and speed up the contact groups and spin-off groups. Sometimes, there are informal meetings too such as informal contact groups or informal consultations to let group of delegates to meet in private to discuss and consolidate views. Besides that, each party blocs do have their own daily coordination meetings are meant for each bloc (e.g. LMDC coordination meeting, or G77 & China daily coordination meeting) to ensure the bloc comes to a consensus on certain topic or discuss strategies for daily’s negotiations on how to deal with other blocs.
How a typical meeting room set up looks like. Screens are provided for negotiators to read the instant changes in the text upon discussion
In the meetings, we also found it hard in the beginning to identify who are the speakers because no country flags are placed in small scale meetings as the negotiators know each others well. We were also quite lost in the beginning of the pace of discussion, mainly because of all the jargons that we came across (e.g. we support LMDC suggestion on article X, paragraph Y that blah blah… However, AILAC mentioned in article Z paragraph S…).
Newcomers, like us, are not familiar with the text would take more time to absorb what exactly was the spokesperson referring to. So it is not surprised to see how attendees in meetings including the negotiators themselves bringing a hardcopy of the text full of highlights and remarks along with them all the time!
Logistically, I found out that the soundproof facility between rooms to rooms are not that good. It makes me wonder how can the negotiations carried out in peace, confidentially? (oops, hope they didn’t overlooked this part).
Securities are pretty tight too especially closed meetings where every single person will be checked on their badges before entering the room by the United Nations own security force. Some of the contact groups even needed special secondary badges to enter! The so-called CCTV (climate change TV) is literally everywhere in HALL 6 to showed the up-to-date schedule and also sometimes, broadcasting live closed meetings. Sometimes, many of the important closed meetings happened parallel with each other. This raised concern to the negotiators, and Malaysia voiced this up several times to the chair and secretariat. Not to mention, Malaysia pushed to open some other closed meetings to be opened to observers for transparency purpose! Another proud moment for Malaysians *Jumps and feeling proud*
Written by: Emily
Liang-Yi Chang from Taiwan
“My first COY was in 2009 and our purpose was to learn how YOUNGO work and how the international youth climate movement works. My purpose to COY-Tokyo was to help and facilitate a COY in East Asia and strategically to support the march in Tokyo for Global Climate March moment, which is part of Road through Paris plan with 350.org. Now there are more than 10+ student clubs working with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition which is the national youth climate organization and is the first youth-led environmental NGO. We had trained more than 1000 youths to our yearly youth climate gathering in July.
Taiwan is yet an official member of UNFCCC which is improper, we hope we can loop Taiwan in the Framework to keep Taiwan’s Carbon emission to Paris Agreement and more to have its legally binding to international community. Youth power and consistence are both keys for me to maintain myself to climate issue. It is hard for everyone to attend all the COP/COY meetings, but we can follow from the previous participants to learn before we are heading.
We just had our 1st NO Coal march in Taiwan aiming for the Presidential election in Jan 2016, and soon we will have Anti-coal youth trainings around Taiwan in 2016 on planning.We want to face out fossil fuel through divestment approach and saving electricity to push government toward 100% renewables and green investment.”
– Liang-Yi Chang from Taiwan
Yew Aun from Malaysia
“I’m a MSc student. My purpose in COP21 is to show support to the cause at COP and prove that impossible things can be done. Intensification of El Nino and other climate effects leading to annual floods/more storms/intense drought is happening in my country. I am not well read on this but government has allocated budget in 2016 to establish National Disaster Management Agency and flood mitigation projects.
I think we can improve the youth participation in UNFCCC by improve awareness through dialogues with local youth groups. I feel youth participation is important but not necessarily involving sending youth to COP, there is much work to be done in the ASEAN/Asian region.”
– Quek Yew Aun from Malaysia
Melissa from Singapore
“I am a former environment reporter with Channel News Asia and graduate from the London School of Economics. Currently running a start-up consultancy for NGOs, Game Changerz, she is focused on running effective advocacy campaigns, recognising that first-world urbanites have every role to play in the fight against global issues, from climate change to extreme poverty.
My team went to COP21 to connect with other civil society groups, engage with our negotiators and ministers, attend side events that are of relevance to the Singapore context and communicate our insights of being there in the COP event. Personally, I was very keen to meet the 10,000+ climate heroes who flew to Paris from around the world. It is a rare opportunity to learn from experts! As a low-lying island state, we will have to adapt to sea level rise, which will be very costly. This year, we saw an extended El Nino which gave us a bad bout of haze. Singapore will be affected by food security issues too.
From COP21, I learnt that there are so many ways to join this fight against climate change! You don’t even need to be a nature-lover. For example, the divestment movement, or green finance, are all relatively new movements which has great potential to change things — but isn’t considered ‘environmental movement’ in the traditional sense. There are many exciting things brewing in other societies which Singapore can learn from.”
– Chong Youwen (Melissa) from Singapore
Beatriz from Brazil
“I’m a climate activist in Brazil, and my purpose of going to COP21 is to work with YOUNGO. Brazil faces droughts and floods that are induced by climate change. My organization, Engajamundo works to empower young people on the ground and to increase youth political influence in decision making processes.
I think the youth participation in Brazil is increasingly active. To increase youth participation in UNFCCC, we should translate how climate change will impact youth in their realities and get more funding so that we (the youths) can participate at negotiations.”
– Beatriz Azevedo de Araujo from Brazil
Interview done by Elaine