If there’s a word to describe my first impressions of the events happening in and around COP21, it’s Energy. From presenting ambitious projects alongside other passionate youth at the Global University Climate Forum, to observing high-level panel discussions in observer rooms at the Blue Zone in Le Bourget, I’ve never seen so much energy and optimism anywhere else. This is my first participation in a high-level conference on a global scale, and this event is leaving its mark on me as one of my most valued experiences thus far.
I first began my time in Paris by participating in the Global University Climate Forum organized by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) where my team and I from I’dECO, the Yale-NUS Sustainability Movement presented our project the Singapore Sustainable Solutions Network – a network that we hope to create to bridge all environmentally-related organizations and institutions in Singapore to enhance and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration.There were many other university students in the poster rooms who delivered their projects, ranging from creating an app to improve food waste management in dining halls to fossil fuel divestment projects. But they all echoed common characteristics of ambition and idealism. There’s great energy and motivation to either get things started, change things that don’t work, or build on current progress.
And that was precisely what I saw in my first three days at the official events here in the city. One of the highlights of the Development and Climate Days Conference I attended on 6 December was the promotion of insect-derived protein and food products as a solution to global food insecurity. This session saw an Argentinian food expert and a Senegalese chef on stage explaining the environmental benefits of shifting our diet to eating insects instead of beef. I walked away at the end of the day having eaten my first locust and mealworm chocolates, but was also thinking to myself: these guys had so much energy and idealism in attempting to generate behavioral change! While some held back at the idea, others rushed for macarons with crickets that were going around tables, and a minority didn’t seem concerned. While everyone in the room came from diverse backgrounds and had varied opinions, we all nonetheless had convergence around the issues that truly matter to us – these stood out really strongly when we were discussing the methods to implement women empowerment programs in Uganda or in addressing water inadequacies in Bangladesh.
Yet at my very first COP at Le Bourget I felt slightly overwhelmed with the sheer number of events, meetings and exhibits to get involved in. The scale of the event was immense, with both areas of the Climate Generations and the Blue Zone. I’ve only just begun to get a sense of the proceedings, fortunately with the help of daily RINGO meetings, newsletters and other friends around. As one of the youngest people roaming around the observer rooms and plenary halls obtaining occasional glances from those older, I am humbled by this opportunity for me to be able to observe discussions and to truly appreciate the incredible amount of hopefully impactful work that goes on between our lawmakers, politicians and members of the civil society. The final outcome of the negotiations remains to be seen, but I am nonetheless hopeful that this year’s negotiations will be the largest step we have taken for our climate and ourselves.
PS: I hope to discuss more about my areas of interest in climate justice, cities and development in my next post.