On the Ground Action Fulfilling the Objectives of the UNFCCC
As the COP negotiations advance, faith in the UNFCCC deteriorates. Eager first time attendees have been exposed to the excruciatingly slow pace of the discussions of Parties regarding every issue posed. The Parties themselves admit that the system is close to broken. In an ADP meeting on November 20, 2013, Venezuela noted the lack of progress of the meetings and questioned what outside observers may think of the Convention and whether it will actually achieving anything.
The day to day back and forth, with barely any agreements reached, makes one question the effectiveness of the UNFCCC framework. Why are we all here? Is consensus possible? What is the contribution of COP19? Can the UNFCCC address climate change?
Monday of week 2 of COP19 started with high level meetings, but everyone had already lost hope. The effectiveness of the Convention is questioned by everyone present in the meetings. Transparency is a farce because meetings are closed to observers. Why should a few people in a closed room make decisions that will affect every single person in the world?
Despite the lack of progress in the meetings of COP19, some individuals, and not governmental bodies, have taken the lead to address climate change with on-the-ground actions. Generating one small change at a time, they are making greater progress than all the delegates in the negotiations.
Some of these individuals were present in the side event on community-based relocation held by Many Strong Voices at the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw on Monday, November 18, 2013. Even though the event was not on site at the COP, several people from different NGOs and delegations decided to leave the National Stadium and the negotiations for one afternoon to engage in a round table discussion.
During the side event, everyone present shared their visions and experiences on relocation of communities affected by climate change. For example, members of SPREP described several actions taken by small islands in the pacific to adapt to climate change, such as changing the flushing toilets to compost toilets, building a sea wall, and collecting rain water. All of these actions carried out by communities in SIDS delivers one clear message to developed countries: “If we can do it, you can too”.
After only a few hours of discussion regarding the best approaches to address adaptation and relocation, workshop participants reached several conclusions. First, that regional or local responses are stronger than multilateral responses. Second, that there must be a proactive approach towards adaptation, and not a reactive approach. Third, and most important, that it is not all about money.
We can make a contribution without giving money by sharing ideas and experiences. The workshop participants continued sharing experiences and ideas after the meeting ended. That is the role of the COP: bringing people together, even if they are the “observers of the negotiations”. It is in these side events of the COP that the answer is found, not in the main rooms with void discussions. Individuals with different backgrounds sharing their perspectives and ideas and taking action to begin helping those likely to suffer the most devastating effects of climate change. Small steps outside governmental discussions will generate change.
In the end, we are one global community working toward one goal. We can and must be the change we want to see. It only takes one to be the first to stand up, but when all rise to the occasion together, anything is possible.