So why are you here? But really, why are you ACTUALLY here? Conference tourism and COP16.

Written by: Lena Phillips

I’ve been in Cancun just over a week now and I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of seminars and conferences happening alongside the actual UN negotiations. I attended a few panel discussions yesterday at an event entitled Water & Climate Dialogues. To be honest, I was quite underwhelmed. The discussions merely provided vague messages of change and essentially no guidance as to how these sentiments would translate into tangible policy or action. Despite this, the event was being held at a high end hotel complete with first class service and food. It just amazes me how much money, time and resources get put into international conferences. This is not to say that international dialogue, feasibility assessment s and data development isn’t important; but, it does seem as though there are a lot people here ‘addicted’ to the perks of ‘travelling with a purpose’.

If I’m going to write a blog about conference tourism then I have to critically reflect on my own attendance at this conference as part of the CYD. A group of 20-somethings heading down to Cancun for some UN Negotiations definitely has the potential to make us look like self-important do-gooders. I can confidently say that as a group, we are not. Yes, we are here to network and learn, but I’ve watched members of this group out-talk some pretty influential political and business figures in the area of climate policy. Back in Canada (and around the world) CYD members have been doing tremendous work in engaging communities on environmental issues (particularly in areas where our government is lacking). Additionally, we had to fund our own way down here. As youth, we have an invested interest in what happens to the earth because it will determine our entire future but our government isn´t paying for us to be here so that youth could have input; nope, that´s something we had to work hard for.  Being here in Cancun has granted us access to some of these all inclusive events but it by no means reflects our lifestyle. So now that I have sufficiently defended myself and the CYD, back to the topic of conference tourism.

One of the major areas of negotiation for the UNFCCC is that of financing climate change mitigation and adaptation. The international community has yet to come to an agreed upon method of accomplishing this. Yet we continue to see academics, business leaders and politicians spend seemingly wasteful amounts of money at conferences, seminars and workshops held in various locations around the world. I´ve already noted that this exchange of ideas is important, and it definitely helps to build networks, but does it have to take place in such pampered environments? Thursday of this week was Young and Future Generations Day at the COP. The group of international youth present at the conference developed a messaging strategy based on something that was said at last year’s climate change conference in Copenhagen. The message reads,

“You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me that you need more time”- Christina Ora, Youth Delegate from the Solomon Islands addressing the plenary at COP15.

At this point in time there is no denying climate change or the devastation that it’s already inflicting (and will continue to inflict) on people and ecosystems all over the globe. It’s time to stop wasting time talking, and to start taking time doing. So put down your free drink and set aside your gourmet meal and let’s see some ACTION!


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