Circus Time!

Circus Time!

Wednesday 9 December 2009

It isn't often you have class over breakfast!

We started the day out with an ANU breakfast briefing where Janette went through some housekeeping and COP15 procedures. We also got business cards and beanies! I was feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed so it was useful talking to Janette to clarify whether I could approach my topic in a multifaceted way. I'm interested in looking at NGO impacts on REDD negotiations and Janette said it was fine if I spoke to and connected with the NGOs and International Youth Forest Group. She said I could even get involved in the activism as long as I acknowledged that I was approaching the topic from a subjective rather than objective perspective. With that approach, I headed off the COP!

I would describe the inside of COP as the Royal Sydney Easter Show minus the animals, rides and showbags. There are similar booths to the Easter Show and side events which go on simultaneously. There is a buzz in the air and people always seem to be rushing from one thing to another. There are big spaces for eating and converging. Each country and constituency has its delegation office at the back of the conference area. There are numerous plenaries (like the one in the movie "The Interpreter") where you can listen to simultaneous translations. It is a very cool place.

This is one of the main thoroughfares where people meet and eat.

Australia negotiates. There are big televisions screens all over the Bella Centre and there are frequently groups of people huddled around watching the proceedings inside the plenaries.

It's not just men in suits who come to the COP!

The first thing I did was find a Daily Program so I could figure out what I wanted to do over the course of the day. The Daily Program is the holy text of COP which is printed every morning and contains the goings on of that day. Obviously, things still change so you have to keep an eye on the television screens around the conference and if you can, go online to check the latest updates.

I was still a bit confused so I made a list of all the elements of COP15 which could potentially be a part of my major report.




Youth Forest Working Group


Side Events

Youth in the Text Working Group

Indonesia; Brazil; Congo

ECA; Rainforest Alliance


I checked out a REDD event at the Bellona Centre. It was really good because there was a panel of 5 experts from very different backgrounds.

Samuel Nnah from Cameroon who moderated the event

Kenn Mondiai from Papua New Guinea who spoke the experience of Papua New Guinea with REDD. He spoke about issues of poor governance and corruption, mentioning the nickname given to people in Papua New Guinea who have links with the government – carbon cowboys.

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz from Phillipines who is the Director General of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous People who updated us on the SBSTA text. She ended her speech asking everyone to help ensure that the words of the Universal Declaration of the Indigenous Person are included in the final REDD text.

Roger Mulhuba from the Democratic Republic of Congo spoke about the experience of the DRC with two fast track REDD programs and the DRC's participation of the World Bank's Forest Pathway.

Bard Lahn from Norway who was really informative speaking on how safeguards in the text will not ensure effectiveness. Rather, we need to ensure there is implementation of the safeguards on the ground. He even had a slide show!

The Bellona Centre event's speakers.


After the REDD event, I headed back to the NGO side events to listen to "Lessons Learnt from the Campaign". It turns out there wasn't any formal group event but I spoke to Abe Woo from Malaysia who coordinated the South East Asian campaigns on 24 October.

Afterwards I went to the EU LULUCF event which was mind numbingly boring. I realised that I'm not interested in the scientific aspects of LULUCF. Thank goodness David Dumareck was there and asked if either Bella, Molly or me wanted to go to the Australian brief. I volunteered straight away and we found ourselves in a long, long line to get into the Australian Delegation office.

We got in finally – there were heaps of people there. We all introduced ourselves. There were lots of lawyers from the big law firms like Clayton Utz and Baker & McKenzie. ANU was also well represented. It was fascinating (or "gobsmacking" as David said!) to see how the questions were fielded. There were questions on MRV (measurements, reporting and verification); a question about whether the Universal Declaration of the Indigenous Person would be included in the final outcome. There was a vague reply that "we'll take that on board and see what we can do"; there was a question on whether what "sequestration" refers to - whether it refers to geological or biological sequestration which received a response "We've all got our own agenda's to push" which I guess is true.

A bird's eye map of the Hall where the Australian Delegation Office is located.

Inside the Australian Briefing.

Fern and I went to have lunch. The meals here are surprisingly cheap, good and 60% organic! We spoke about being law students and how great it would be to go into law in relation to climate change. Fern mentioned a Melbourne law firm which is "Lawyers for Forests" that she would be interested in working in when she finished next year. She was helpful in telling me which environmental law courses to do and which not to do!

On our way to the REDD negotiations, one of the head delegates of an African delegation stopped us and spoke about how she had been a youth activist in 1985 and now she was part of an official delegation. She said we should keep fighting and one day we will be the ones negotiating. It was one of the special moments of COP15.

After lunch I ducked to Hall C because I had received a text message about an hour before hand that everyone should meet outside Hall C at 2.45pm to prep. It turns out that the SBSTA negotiators were about to go into negotiate the methodology of REDD. We were doing a "REDD alert Whoop Whoop" campaign outside the room. I felt like I was back doing student elections and harassing the passers-by. I quickly found my groove and realised the delegations were more receptive to you when you said something about the youth voice wanting to be heard. There was a guy who was making a movie about the REDD process in negotiations and several people were taking photos.

The first Youth Forest protest of the conference. One of my friends from India, Swati, is being interviewed by the film crew about her opinion of REDD and the negotiations.

We were buzzing from the activity and made our way over to the Plenary where there were big protests with people shouting "Tuvalu, Tuvalu" regarding a motion Tuvalu had proposed to suspend the COP because they were unhappy with all the informal negotiations. I bumped into my Swedish friends from COY who had been meeting with the Algeria delegation and were planning a North/South action for Sunday which I'll hopefully join in on.

The big Tuvalu and other Small Island States protest outside the plenary. The protest was so loud you could hear it from the other end of the Bella Centre.

I wasn't able to get into the Plenary session because they weren't letting NGOs in (I think it was after the very loud and successful Tuvalu protests!) so I went to one of the numerous computer hubs to type up the list of side events I wanted to attend in case the secondary pass system is introduced. I bumped into George from Zimbabwe who was waiting before going to meet the official Zimbabwean delegation to lobby for them to support 350ppm (I later saw him and he said he hadn't even needed to lobby them – they readily agreed!)

George and me inside the Bella Centre.

At 5.45pm I went back to meet up with the Forest WG for us to lobby the delegates going into LCA for REDD discussions on the scope. We decided to take a different approach and sing, to change tact from this morning. It was a bit awkward at first but after a while, although some of us had only just met each other, we were all singing together and harmonising and rapping out some of our messages to protect Indigenous rights and forests.

Security ended up coming out and very politely informing us that the delegates inside couldn't properly hear the negotiations and could we please move a bit down the corridor. We decided to draw it to a close and have our daily meeting where we prepped for our side event tomorrow.

Mr. Security Guard politely interferes with our plans!

Gemma Tillack is the de facto leader of the Youth Forest Working Group. She is from Tasmania and works for The Wilderness Society. She is very impressive and was answering all these questions about the day's negotiations and strategies NGOs take with negotiations.

"Chatting" to the negotiators just before they go into the REDD negotiations.

After that, I grabbed dinner and went back to the room. Meg and I had a chat about the day's happenings and her project on Indigenous people and mine. Bella came in after the Peatlands talk. We were discussing how interlinked everything was – peatlands, REDD, Indigenous people. I said it would be great if after this course, we drew a venn diagram or something of how everything fits together.



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