Femke at COP24

Our EVS volunteer Femke Lootens was present at COP24 (the 24th international conference on climate change), as part of the European Youth Forum Delegation.  Here are some fresh updates on her experiences in Katowice, Poland

13/12/2018 – Press conference!

After days of rebooking rooms, trying to invite press, and working on the format the day has come of the European Youth Forum Press Conference!

The months before, one of the European Youth Forum Member organisations took the initiative to draft a call to action on climate change to our EU policy-makers, which was edited by other European Youth Forum Members, under which YEE. The call to action was presented at COP24 in a press conference.

Our whole delegation worked very hard to make it happen, and it was i very interesting experience (although I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do a press conference without any media training).

You can read the statement here, and watch the press conference here:

12/12/2018 – EU bilateral meeting

Today, we had what is called a “bilateral meeting” between YOUNGO and the EU. A bilateral is a fancy word for a meeting between two groups of stakeholder.

We could raise some of our concerns, Sebastiaan read part of the European Youth Forum statement and the EU officials mainly responded by our request for more inclusion in decision-making that they needed help with social media from us…

11/12/2018 – Going inside…

A day with the European Youth Forum Delegation

Many people asked me: “so how does a day inside the conference look like?” The answer might be very different for official delegates, scientists, businesspeople, … Here a short outline of a typical day for me, trying to follow the COP with a youth perspective.

9:00 Spokes at YOUNGO

After being going to the security, walking for ten minutes through the huge conference venue while eating free chocolate for breakfast along the way, I would finally arrive at the spokes of YOUNGO.

Every morning, young people present at the COP would come together to plan the activities of the day.

YOUNGO is the official Youth Constituency to UNFCCC  (YOUTH + NGO = YOUNGO). It’s a network of youth organisations and individuals who get involved with international climate change policies and actions within the UNFCCC. YOUNGO is one of the main drivers of the Conference of Youth, which is held each year before the COP and open to all youth, and consists out of many working groups that are working on different topics before and during the COP.

Apart from YOUNGO there are 7 other official constituencies:

  1. RINGO (Research NGOs)
  2. BINGO (Business NGOs)
  3. ENGO (Environmental NGOs – the constituencies consists of the two networks CAN (Climate Action Network) and CJN (Climate Justice Now))
  4. LGMA (Local Governments and Municipal Authorities)
  5. Farmers
  6. Women & Gender
  7. TUNGO (Trade Unions)

Find me between other YOUNGO people.

10:00 meeting with the European Youth Forum members

After the YOUNGO meeting, we were ready for another meeting- with the European Youth Forum.

The European Youth Forum, represents 105 youth organisations and together tens of millions of young people from all over Europe. Many of these organisations have members present at COP. We had a meeting to see how we can support each other during the duration of the COP and how we can be a strong voice together.

10:45 Meeting with the European Youth Forum delegation

And the meetings didn’t stop! After discussion with all European Youth Forum members  we gathered again in our smaller delegation.

The European Youth Forum send a delegation in the first and second week of the COP24. The delegation of the second week of COP24 consisted of: Sebastiaan Rood (Board Member Climate European Youth Forum), Milan Maushart (Member of International Young Nature Friends), Mayri Tiido (Youth Council Estonia), and me.

We are meeting regularly to see how we can support and connect other European Youth Forum members and what other actions we can take to

In between

Trying to arrange a press conference, queuing for free coffee at the German pavilion, catching up with old friends, trying to process the one million WhatsApp/signal/telegram messages and e-mails from different groups, trying to figure out how to make Instagram stories for YEE, trying to stay sane.

14:15

Realizing that you forgot to eat, and trying to hunt for some free food at one of the pavilions or side events.

16:00

Going to one of the interesting side events or actions.

18:00

The “Fossil of the day award” is given each day by Climate Action Network to the country that was showing most INaction for the climate during that day in the conference. Untill now, fossils were: Egypt, Austria, the US, Switzerland, Germany, the Arab group, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and our host country Poland.

22:00

1,30 hour trip to Zabrze, where the hostel is (Katowice is way to small for the massive amount of people present).

23:30 sleep

Exhausted after the day, trying not to be to addicted to twitter.

Next day: repeat with some variations

8/12/2018 – A day of marching

March in Katowice

However, the Polish government passed a law this year specifically addressing the conference, restricting demonstrations and allowing police powers to collect personal data on participants at the conference without their knowledge or judicial oversight (read more). This raised severe concerns that civil society space would not be respected during COP24.

Unfortuntately, these concerns proved to be true. The evening of the 7th, we found out that 12 civil society representatives who were coming to Poland for the COP were denied entry and send back to the countries they were coming from. Except from one, everyone is still denied access. (read more)

This already casted a black shadow over the climate march in Katowice.  In addition, there was an over presence of policemen with guns, pepper spray, horses and water canons shed a gloomy shadow over the climate march. Normally, being together with so many people that have the same dream and vision reloads my batteries, but this march kind of did the opposite.

Luckily, we were not alone. People from all over the world were marching for stronger climate policies. Power to the People!

Climate Action Network party

In a fancy nightclub in Katowice, policy-makers, NGO-folks, scientists and businessmen of all nationalities and ages were dancing off the stress of the first week of COP24. An interesting experience!

7/12/2018 – On the train from Prague to Katowice, feeling excited and a bit anxious

While watching the Czech and Polish coal power plants from the train window, I am thinking about the week to come. I am very grateful for the opportunity that YEE and the European Youth Forum gave me to participate. But, at the same time I have been feeling quite restlessness last month and even a bit anxious to go.

Why?

Because I am starting to suffer from climate anxiety

It is a strange coincidence that I am 24 years old, and I am participating as an observer in the 24th COP. Despite that international climate negotiations have started long before me and other young people were born (31 years ago, at the conference of Geneve) carbon emissions are still rising (source: carbon brief). We are feeling the effects of global warming already and current policies are simply insufficient to secure our future.

Because it is difficult to understand all the technical jargon

There is are so many abbreviations and the whole policy process is quite difficult to understand. For me, the ECO newsletters that are send out every day by CAN International were of great help during the first week to follow and understand the essence of what is actually happening. They have a great sense of humour, which helps a lot to digest all the facts (and sad news).

Visual from the Climate Development days 2018

Because it is huge

I also feel overwhelmed by the mass gathering a COP is. I am already receiving tons of e-mails and WhatsApp/signal messages from a variety of groups and I have not been inside the conference zone yet!

Of course, these are minor issues if you compare it with losing your livelihood or being displaced because of climate change induced disasters. I feel very privileged that I can attend COP24. I hope I can share some insights from there with you and other young people with a heart for the environment.

Cheers from Katowice,

Femke