I wanted to make my last post about the overwhelming positive experience I had attending COP this year. I want to start off by thanking Emory University’s Environmental Science Department, Dr. Eri Saikawa and Mr. James Reilly for allowing me the opportunity to go to COP. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to go, and will take the experience with me forever.
In terms of expectations before landing in Madrid, I had very few. I knew that there were going to be a variety of delegates there from around the world speaking on different topics regarding climate change, but that was about it. I was actually kind of overwhelmed when trying to search the schedule for events to attend, worried that I was not knowledgeable enough to be attending this conference, and worried about my ability to understand and absorb information.
I am happy to say that my expectations of this were not met. Instead, I found myself entranced by the amount of information available to me at different events, and able to keep up with much of the discussion, particularly discussions about which I have done heavy research before. In this way, COP25 helped me gain confidence in myself and my studies and re-assure that I have chosen the right career path for me. I had also previously been worried about how my status as a student would affect my experience. Were adults going to look down on me? Would they take me serious at these events? I was so surprised and humbled by the fact that they did. In discussions with people, such as the UK Energy Minister, they were excited to talk to students who were interested in their topics rather than disinterested due to the age gap. Instead, they were proud that people in younger generations were interested in talking about climate change. All of this led me to be eager to wake up in the morning, make the 40 minute journey by metro, scan in and listen to different topics and conversations.
While I was mainly following the discussion about renewable energy proliferation and decarbonization of the energy grid, I attended so many events that I had not planned on. I was so glad that this happened! Because of the nature of the conference, I found myself walking into random events while I had 30-40 minutes to kill between my sessions. Some of these random sessions that I walked into were even more interesting than the ones I had planned and helped me broaden my focus. One of the most interesting talks I attended unplanned was the talk about the World Surf League and the role that sports had on climate action. It really drove home to me that we can and need to engage all sectors in order to help solve the massive problem that is climate change. The wide number of actors that attended COP25 ranging from politicians to businessmen and women to students and to indigenous leaders emphasized this point. Because climate change will affect everyone, it must be addressed by everyone.
Some highlights of my time at COP25:
- Being able to see former Secretary of State John Kerry speak multiple times about his World War Zero campaign. As a long time Kerry fan, it was a surreal experience to hear him talk about the need for the United States to take a strong stance in the fight for climate action. Moreover, his speech about mobilizing the youth to force action among the powerful adults was eloquent and empowering. As a young person, I felt as though he was speaking to me personally and felt a deep connection to his message. Plus, I got to stand very close to Secretary Kerry! Who would’ve thought that would ever happen.
2. Seeing Harrison Ford give a speech at the U.S Center for Climate Action Pavilion. Celebrities using their voices to mobilize citizens in the fight for climate change is a good way to go. It gives me faith that there really are people doing good, and using their fame in a good way. Additionally, I was glad that his presence got so many people at the U.S Center for Climate Action Pavilion. It was a good way to get attention and to signal to the world that #wearestillin. Despite our current administration, the United States is fighting against our barriers and limitations to meet our Paris goals.
3. Being able to experience a closing plenary. Despite the long wait for the plenary to start, and the large amount of stagnation in the discussions, it was still an amazing experience to be able to see how different delegates from different countries discuss and negotiate with each other. Although the end results of the negotiations were very disappointing, the experience was still a great one.
4. Seeing my own professor, Eri Saikawa speak at the U.S Center for Climate Action Pavilion! It’s always very rewarding to see those who I work closely with have an impact outside of the Emory community, and to see their awesome work showcased. Additionally, having such a great Atlanta presence at that panel made me have so much hometown pride (even though I’m from Connecticut.)
5. Being able to bond with the rest of the members of the Emory delegation. Everyone’s diverse educational and personal background brought so much to the overall experience of attending COP25. When attending events with other people in our delegation, we were able to discuss afterwards our differing perspectives and opinions and I got my eyes opened to a lot of new and interesting ideas I would’ve ever gotten on my own. Daily debriefings over dinner and discussions really helped drive home many of the things I had learned during the day, and I really cherished that.
Overall, COP25 was an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have been able to attend. With the beautiful city of Madrid as the backdrop, I don’t think I could’ve spent the week of December 9th any better.