What to expect in Durban?


As a Canadian Youth Delegate to the UNFCCC COP17, I attended a meeting with the High Commissionaire of South Africa and Canadian civil society groups about what we would like and/or expect to see in Durban.

First of all, I had very little expectations of this meeting. I mean, I have a clear understanding on what happens in these meetings and I’ve had my priorities straight since I decided to apply to CYD. However, I was still interested to see what others had to say, especially that I have not had this discussion with members outside of my own delegation.

Some people sounded more optimistic than others. The High Commissionaire of South Africa stressed the important role that civil society plays in the negotiations, however, indirectly told me that there will be very little space for civil society to participate in COP17.

For some the solution was to call the government accountable for its actions, while others emphasized engaging with Canada’s civil society after COP, both things that have been done in the past. I did not feel like I left with anything more than what I already knew. If anything, my concerns were confirmed.

But that is ok; because I am going to Durban for my own personal satisfaction.

When I accepted to be part of the CYD, I had to reconcile the fact that this is more about me than it is about the planet. I know I will be there to witness yet another disappointing major climate conference. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to being able to point out, through experience, the anomalies in non-binding, voluntary international agreements.

I want to participate with civil society and grassroots organisations to collectively voice concerns and set out a broader agenda for a plan that will go beyond Durban and the international negotiations meeting halls.

I do believe in the importance and powerfulness of learning from other delegations’ experiences and teaming up with them on various issues or strategies. On the other hand, I still believe that my role in Durban will, at most, allow me to expand my skills and make me a better organiser.

The truth is that I don’t believe in the UN process and I am not expecting world changing results in Durban. In fact, I believe that the only way to move forward is to switch the scenario so that it is about changing the system and this is why I am going in Durban.

I want to learn from other somewhat successful movements or campaigns to compare and determine how it applies at home. I want to be able to bring a fresher perspective to my six years of involvement in the Canadian climate movement.

I expect a wide range of emotions from enthusiasm to frustration, from hope to desperation, from excitement to burnout. Being a pessimist and knowing what I know about international negotiations, I can only hope that my enthusiasm and desperation will be met and responded to by similar feelings from fellow delegates, and bring us closer to a sharing a more ambitious vision of solidarity and climate justice.


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