Sunday, November 30, 2014

And so it begins

Day 1 of the COP meeting involves the annual ritual of navigating your way to the venue, getting registered, and then becoming oriented to the city.  Those of us with observer credentials can’t get into the arena until the official opening of the conference on the first Monday, but it is a good idea to beat the morning crowds trying to register then.  The navigation part can be interesting in a foreign country, but this year, I am here with Sarabeth Brockley (Moravian College graduate and graduate student at Lehigh) and Deanna Metivier (an undergraduate at North Carolina State University) – both of whom are fluent in Spanish.  That helps with finding directions, communicating with taxi drivers, etc. 

The San Borja district has many small parks and tree-lined streets.  I learned quickly that these are great places for urban birding!

We knew we were close to the COP venue when we saw a sign and some folks handing out a mini-newspaper to people in the park about the COP meeting that contained articles like “El cambio climático es el problema ambiental más important.

Deanna is on the far left, Sarabeth is the blonde
Security at COP meetings is always high and you learn not to question protocol, even if it seems odd.  Today we learned that once inside the first gate (which of course is the farthest away, so you walk around a lot of fenced in area), you have to take a shuttle to the actual meeting location and then go through another layer of security screening.  Each COP has its own quirks, but this arrangement in Lima promises to become a huge bottleneck when 15,000 people are all trying to get to the meeting at the same time in the morning.  But so it is.

The 2014 venue
Not until the meetings actually commence will we get a sense for what is going to be accomplished, but reports range from cautious optimism (1) to a sense that even negotiating success (i.e. a multilateral legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emotions globally) won’t solve the climate problem.  Take for example, the quote for an article in today’s New York Times (2):

“But underlying that optimism is a grim reality: No matter the outcome of the talks, experts caution, it probably will not be enough to stave off the increasingly significant, near-term impact of global warming.”

After my recent opinion piece that appeared in the local newspaper (a edited version of the last post on this blog), someone from the community wrote me a lengthy email with about the same sentiment as that from the NY Times.  Sigh.  I try to remain more optimistic than that.

After finding a place to eat (the San Borja suburb at first seemed like all apartments and no shops or restaurants), we hit the local grocery store to stock our rental apartment, and then headed to a vigil on the eve of COP20.  Often these are organized by faith-based coalitions, as was the case tonight.  Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC kicked off the event (before we arrived) and a large group marched through the streets.  We listened to a few speakers as well as some musicians who had composed pieces specifically for the event.

Of particular interest, was our conversation with the organizers of #fastfortheclimate (#ayunoporeclclima) scheduled for tomorrow.  

According to their press release,

Fasters will gather in the main cafeteria of the COP20 to pose with empty plates to show that they stand in solidarity with people impacted by climate change. Prominent fasters will discuss the attempt at the largest ever fast and launch the next phase of the movement - 365 Days of Fasting. Yeb Sano, Climate Change Commissioner for the Philippines will make a statement by video link.

I don’t know what or who "prominent fasters" are, but Yeb Sano is the delegate who announced a hunger strike at COP19 following the massive typhoon to hit the Philippines last year to protest the slow progress in climate negotiations and the impact being felt in his country.

I will let some photos from the event tell the rest of the story for tonight as they are better than words that I can come up with.

1) International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Negotiators land in Lima with eyes on a draft climate deal

2) Davenport, C. Grim Reality Amid Optimism Ahead of Climate Talks, New York Times,

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