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Baptism by fire – Cara's first day of COP

Posted by Cara Augustenborg on December 10, 2015 at 08:20 AM

Yesterday, I arrived at my first COP. What surreal world this is – A mini city where thousands of people go about their daily work of trying to combat climate change. It’s a tiered community where the colour of the badge around your neck determines what work you can and can’t do.

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I have a pink badge with the words “Party Overflow” written across it. This badge is allocated by the Irish government to representatives from Irish civil society groups. It is supposed to allow greater access than the yellow “Observer” badge many of my NGO colleagues have, though I have yet to find out how.

Colleagues say access to meetings and negotiations at COP21 is restricted more than any other COP they’ve attended but no one seems to know why this is the case.

I started my first day at COP with a briefing by the Irish government negotiation team. It was a useful introduction to what has happened so far, but I was struck that our government negotiation team seems to be more of an observer than an active negotiator. Understandably, they fall in with EU policy here at COP, so our domestic climate issues around what to do about agriculture, etc. go largely ignored.

There are two communities at COP - Those on the “inside” (eg government negotiation teams) and those on the “outside” (eg NGOs, civil society). Mostly, these communities reside in separate parts of the COP venue and I try to spend my time split between the two – following both negotiations inside and “actions” outside.

foe cop21

Yesterday, several of the NGOs (FoE, Greenpeace, WWF, etc.) invaded the COP with a mass sit-in and powerful demonstration. There was a mood of anger and frustration among the protestors that what’s happening inside COP simply won’t be effective enough to protect developing countries and human lives from climate change.

People shouted “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible!” and “1.5 to stay alive!”

The protest culminated in a spontaneous action of leaving protest signs around the iconic mini-Eiffel tower which has become a symbol of COP21.

20151209_203639Meanwhile, on the inside, countries finally dropped their previously civil decorum last night and started playing hard ball on the draft text. Developing countries, in particular, raised complaints until late into the night. Today, those complaints have to be addressed to prevent the whole negotiation from falling apart.

Entering this little world of COP in the last few days of negotiations was a baptism of fire with moments of chaos in between lots of waiting around. Trying to keep a foot in both the “inside” and “outside” communities further enhances that chaotic feeling, and there’s a sense that the chaos will only increase today as the clock runs down on these negotiations.

My baptism day is over, and now it’s time to get down to the brass tacks. Stay tuned for more updates from COP21 later today  -Cara

Cara will be blogging and tweeting for Friends of the Earth Ireland from COP21 in Paris through Sunday

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