COP19 in seven short comments


How was it? How are you feeling now? Have you recovered from COP yet? Your do not seem too depressed like previous years… those are all variations of comments I heard from people around me post-COP19 and even though it has been a while, I am only just beginning to answer them. It doesn’t even feel like I’ve been hit by COP so that I need time to recover and I am certainly feeling more ambivalent than I ever have about the process and everything around it.

I questioned my reasons for going and this time around, I didn’t really have any except for my own self-torturing pleasure of watching old men in suits making very questionable decisions about my future and the future of this planet and not being able to do anything about it. Besides, seeing old friends and meeting some pretty rad people (and enjoying the 3:00 pm sunset in grey Warsaw), here are some of the highlights or lowlights if you wish, of COP.

Canadian negotiator pledging $100: of course, they actually meant $100 million but they can say whatever they want, it is not like there is someone who will actually hold them accountable. Or they can just backtrack next year.

Australians showing in pajamas: no I don’t mean some youth or NGOs action, that was actually the Australian negotiating team’s way of giving UNFCCC the finger!

“Youth are the problem”: according to Christiana Figueres, if youth stop shopping and traveling to conferences, it will all be fine and we can solve climate change. Never mind all those “old” people in suits travelling to conferences that greatly outnumber youth. Oh by the way, has anyone heard about coal, oil, gas, fracking, mining, and all that stuff.. Oh wait, they are not youth, they do not count.

Saudi wants to be compensated for lost oil revenue: they actually said that out loud at a climate conference and got away with it. So how do we still expect countries to take this process seriously and to take their responsibilities as they should. Also, the Saudi negotiator killed a spider using his wallet while on the floor – that was just funny!

Advancing climate negotiations includes deferring to the next year!

Advancing climate negotiations includes deferring to the next year!

Let’s save the world in Peru: while we hope for an agreement to Paris that will go into effect in 2020 – while we’re at it, let’s drink pisco and vodka, I mean we are already here anyways.

Chocolate can apparently save the world: if we spend a ridiculous amount of money to give it away for free and some more money for someone to plant trees on our behalf of offset it. True story! Someone had the brilliant idea of getting a very unsustainable bean, turning it into milk chocolate bars, package it in tinfoil and paper, wrap and ship 28,000 boxes of 14 bars each so that they are given away for free to busy, hungry and sleep-deprived people hanging out in the stadium in grey Warsaw for two weeks. So when I tried to understand the significance, apparently it will be all worth it, if 10% of the people (who have likely received 3 or 4 chocolate bars at least) read the message that this organization is planting trees to offset emissions (created by shipping endless boxes of chocolate – okay I am overdoing it here  but you get the point), we will solve climate change. Never mind the fact that it is individual action and it is using exactly the same system that created the problem. Oh but the chocolate was fair trade – I guess that does it! But the overarching question remains, do I wanna know who paid for all of that?The "change" chocolate

Vegans: according to the supreme master of the vegan cult which is apparently a thing, switching to a diet of heavily processed and packaged soy beans simply ends the troubles of this world.

And on that note, I conclude the highlight (lowlights) of COP19. Any questions?


Maybe we’ve got it all wrong…

Tweeting is not going to save the world

Tweeting is not going to save the world

I had just got back to the hostel and was debating going back to the last hours of plenary because I wasn’t sure when negotiations were gonna end. After calling few people who did not pick up their phones, I decided to tweet at them. 

Then I thought it seems like the negotiations aren’t going anywhere, then I might as well get a skill out of it. 

Then I immediately thought: I am not sure what is sadder that the international community can’t agree on a climate deal (for the 18th year in a row) or that I just called twitter a skill. 

I am a pessimist and I don’t have that much hope for humanity to begin with. Certainly, the last two weeks didn’t help restore that. The 18th climate negotiations is supposed to end anytime now and it is as far from accomplishing something as it has always been. Yet, there isn’t much that is happening otherwise. Everyone is sitting around with no purpose.  The majority are just watching the business as usual scenario, blocking progress and holding the negotiations to their potential which is basically what it has been all 18 years: doing nothing. On the other hand, you’ve got a few that are still trying to come up with a plan, an idea, a last attempt to hold on to a thread of humanism and consciousness to come up with a deal.

Unfortunately, the medium they’re using is Twitter.

A call for tweeting messages of solidarity to the most vulnerable nations is circulating all over social media and is being pushed right, left and center. While I understand why people are doing it, the sad reality is it is pointless; it doesn’t matter. A twitter storm is not a storm. Storms are nature’s angry voice that has been only increasing and intensifying because of all the damage humanity has managed to cause so far. Over the years, we’ve mined metals, rocks, and oils, we’ve destroyed forests, we’ve turned freshwaters into toxic wastestreams, we’ve destroyed agricultural lands, we’ve genetically modified crops after covering them all with toxins, we caused some species to go extinct and we’ve changed the climate.

The truth is we’ve got it wrong. We’ve got it as wrong as leading ourselves to our own extinction. After changing the climate we go and set-up a voluntary system run by oil companies and big banks to solve it. We’ve got it wrong because we prioritized greed and economic development and technological progress all of which has caused us to view and use nature as a mere resource and treat other humans as a simple means to end. We’ve got it so wrong that twitter became the primary method of action and tweeting became a “skill” in a world where more than half of the population doesn’t know how to cook a cup of rice, let alone grow something to eat.

While I would certainly refer to climate change as the biggest problem facing humanity, it is only a symptom, a by-product of humanity itself. The real problem is the shortsighted system that prioritizes greed and material gain and perpetuates a hierarchical, class system based on domination and individualism. The most problematic part is that it has always existed and despite basing everything I do in life on the assumption that things could be different, I am afraid there is not really much evidence to support it.

Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. And here I am watching the international community going through the same process for the 18th year and expecting a different result.

Eighteen years of negotiations have got us nowhere. Eighteen years, as the planet gets warmer, storms get angrier and death becomes easier, more common and less human. We’ve tried it and didn’t work, it is not working now and it is not going to work in the future. We create a problem, then we create another problem to solve it.

Instead of reducing energy consumption, we replace oil mining with gas fracking, instead of stopping covering crops with insecticides we genetically modify them so that they are insect resistant, instead of stopping polluting freshwater sources we use chlorine to drink wastewater and instead of stopping climate change we tweet.

Well, let’s keep tweeting and come back next year to the same process. Meanwhile, the earth will continue on warming, the permafrost will continue on melting and humanity will go business as usual planning its own demise.

What’s at Stake in COP18?


This post is a very simplified comment piece for those out there who are trying to understand why these negotiations are important. It is not meant to be be a comprehensive scientific report, nor is it a news article. Many of the information included here is information that I’ve accumulated over years of studying climate change.  So while I will not be sourcing everything I will try in as much as possible to include reports and articles that will give more information. 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been having its Conference of the Parties COP for 18 years. In 1997, these negotiations have resulted in the Kyoto Protocol that was supposed to reduce the total greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below the 1990 levels, by the end of this year.

Today 15 years after the agreement was finalized and at the end of the year in which countries should have met these targets, global GHG emissions are 58%  above the 1990 levels. On the other hand, scientists are calling for immediate action to cap the emissions in 2015, if the world was to sustain any hope of keeping the global temperature increase under two degrees Celsius.

The structure, negotiations and power dynamics are extremely complicated and difficult to explain. I still want to lay out the reasons that make these negotiations very crucial if we wanted to keep any hope of saving humanity as we know it.

Not only did the global emissions increase; five countries ( Canada, China, Russia, New Zealand and the United States) have so far expressed their unwillingness to take part of a new binding agreement that replaces the Kyoto Protocol, basically signaling their intentions to not reduce their emissions. Now, just to be clear, even though we’re only three days away from the end of the negotiations, there isn’t even a proposal on the table yet.

What is on the table? 

Currently, there is the fragmented ghost of a deal that is called the Durban Platform (ADP). It is the decision made last year, to basically push the decision to this year’s negotiations. It also carries forward the agreement from COP16 in Cancun that they are to set up a new funding mechanism, the Green Climate Fund, to which developed countries will be adding USD 100 billion per year by 2020. This money will be used by developing nations for mitigation and adaptation plans. While USD 100 billion per year sounds like a lot of money, it is actually urgently and crucially needed because the impacts of climate change are extreme, severe, and are causing large economic, social, health and infrastructural problems, around the world.

Currently, this fund is empty and developed countries are under no obligation to add anything to it. Furthermore, many have already expressed their unwillingness to add any money to the fund for various reasons but mostly using the current economic crisis as an excuse.

Now these negotiations are also supposed to resolve and close the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) track.  The problem is there are a lot of outstanding issues around adaptation and funding that are yet to be resolved. There are some concerns that the LCA could be closed without properly addressing its outstanding issues which would leave the possibility of developing a post-Kyoto agreement very difficult.

So in order to move forward, negotiators have, in the next three days, to:

  1. Complete and close the LCA track;
  2. Resolve the issue of funding and put money in the GCF;
  3. Maintain a top-down science-based approach for the Kyoto Protocol;
  4. Come up with a plan that is not to just come up with a plan.

Meanwhile, the earth is 18 years warmer

This is not exactly good news. Scientists are calling for emissions to cap by 2015 to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees. The average temperature increase today is at 0.8 degrees. So far, this has been linked to the significant increase in hurricanes and extreme weather events, droughts, floodings, crop failures, melting of the permafrost, rising of sea levels, drying of aquifers, etc.

To put this in context, a 4 degrees warming would see Bangladesh disappear, rivers like the Amazon and Ganji drying out and glaciers melting and shutting down the freshwater flow and a 6 degrees warming is expected to basically cause a mass extinction of species, including humans.

If this is not considered to be the biggest threat facing humanity, then I am not sure what would qualify.

And if all of this is not enough, in the last week, two reports have been released with some rather disturbing information. The United Nations Environment Program released a report saying that the permafrost, which contains a large amount of Carbon Dioxide, is melting at a much faster rate than scientists had anticipated. Hence, the current climate projection models do not account for the additional CO2 released from the permafrost.

Yesterday, a study in Nature Journal found that it is highly unlikely that we would be able to meet the 2 degrees limit, when considering the rate of progress we’re at. So, unless we dramatically and immediately reduce greenhouse gases, our hopes of keeping the temperature increase at only 2 degrees, are basically vanished. Not to mention that the CO2 effects will extend for decades before things start getting better again.

So knowing all that, we sit here watching as countries fight meaninglessly. Some are pleading for meaningful action, while others runn away from their responsibilities, using excuses like the economy.

Well I hate to break it to you world, if you mess up the environment, there will be no economy. It is  that simple.

Why should you care? 

If you exist, you are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and it is only going to get worse from here. Things are going downhill, already and will impact your lifestyle, economic situation, food sources, etc.

If you have children, then you owe it to them to ensure that you leave them with a decent future.

If you live in a coastal community, or on a small island state then you are at high risk of water level increase.

And simply think of what you’re leaving this world with. Basically, by doing nothing you are actively partaking in destroying the planet. Basically, you have the power to do something now and you chose not to.

When these negotiations started, I was seven years old, today I am 25 and we still don’t have a deal. The outcome of these negotiations cannot and should not be: “we need more time.”

From Ottawa to Doha – the frustrations of climate change


Here we are again. It is time for a new frustrating climate negotiations. COP18 started in Doha last Monday and I’ve been here since, with a press accreditation observing the negotiations, youth actions and the frustrating comments and actions (or lack of thereof) of governments and negotiators.

The rhetoric is the same, the messaging hasn’t been changing much and the expectations are low. The Canadian government, along with many others, aren’t even bothering to pretend that they care while others mostly small island states are frustratingly pleading for meaningful actions knowing that time is running out and there is no time to just sit and watch.

Climate change's impacts are around the worldThere is no time indeed. There is an overwhelming scientific call for greenhouse gas emissions to peak in 2015, in order to be able to cap the global temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius. The depressing reality is that we know two things:

1. Even if that happens, the consequences are already pretty bad and the changes in weather patterns and the impact this will have on water resources and food production,  are already happening and will still get worse before they get better.

2. There are no plans to make any progress or take any actions to cap the emissions in 2015. Not to mention, a UNEP report released Tuesday shows that the current projection models underestimate the impacts because of they do not account the massive amount of CO2 and methane that are going to be released as the permafrost is melting,  which by the way is melting at a higher than expected rate.

With that in mind, we sit here watching the first week of negotiations gone with nothing substantial coming out of it. Even worse, people are concerned that it is going downhill and that there will not actually be any meaningful progress. Now to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything meaningful really, but that just hurts. I mean you would think that people shouldn’t be pleading to the international community in order to keep on existing.

How is it that people don’t understand that one hurricane could literally sweep the entire Marshall Islands of the face of the earth? More importantly how can those who understand and have power to do something about it, stand still and chose not to do anything?  Instead countries like Canada and Qatar go on profiting from the tar sands and oil production, all of which are contributing to climate change.

This no news, it was three years ago that the Maldives cabinet held a meeting under water to symbolize the seriousness of the issue. We’ve been listening to the same things over and over again and it feels like I wrote those same words last year, I just lost my ability to be sarcastic about it.

And then? How much worse does it need to get before something meaningful is done about it? Until do we keep putting greed ahead of the planet and people’s interest?

Remember people, money will never become edible and bitumen oil will never be drank!

“How was your trip?”


Now that COP17 is over, and I am on my way home, I am a little scared. I am going to be back and everyone is going to ask me how my trip was and what I think of “Africa” and if I had fun. And my answer is going to be my trip was depressing, I have not seen Africa and yes I might have had fun but certainly not by your standard definition of fun.  I am really not looking forward to answer these questions to people who don’t know much and don’t care about climate change.

DSC_0092I am really not in the mood to explain to those who will ask “so what did you accomplish” the importance and effectiveness of direct action. Sadly, I have little choice and maybe it is about time to put it out there for those who do and do not understand why I do the things I do.

Most people will wonder how can I go to “Africa” and not go on a Safari, but for me it is pretty simple. It is perfectly okay because, some of the people I met and heard over the last 3 weeks are suffering from famines and are asking for a serious climate deal as their children’s Christmas presents. When I realize the extent to which some people are suffering because of manmade climate change, the constructed importance of many things suddenly fades away.

Maybe instead of a safari, we should all be checking out the once prosperous agricultural communities around the continent that are now suffering droughts and see what we can do about it.

Maybe instead of surfing away on the beaches, we should listen to the outcry of small island states that are threatened to be buried under water in less than a decade.

Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to explore and tour, but what I am saying is that I was up to something more serious and a little more meaningful than a simple tour on my trip. My motivation to spend $4000 and sit on a 35 hours very uncomfortable plane ride has a lot more to it than to tour or visit a foreign place.

I went with a mission to make a difference and hope to inspire, be inspired and shed some light on the reasons behind Canada’s absent climate policies. I went knowing that some part of this trip will suck and that by the end of it I am gonna wonna cry and smash bottles and cry some more knowing that we’re on the road to devastation!

The planet is boiling, people are dying, sea levels are rising and there are some people who just do not give a damn and I cannot do anything about it.

I am pretty sure some will understand this but many will wonder why I would do this.

To those I say how can you not?

How can you be okay with discrimination and injustices? How can you watch the world fall apart and be fine with it? If you believe that your children have an inherent right to food and education, how can you take part of denying those rights to other children?

If you’re religious and think that it is God’s job, I say, if anything all religions have in common is preaching justice and equality.

If you’re lost and not sure what to do, I say educate yourself, you’ll find every action matters.

If you’re just oblivious and don’t care, I say you’re guilty and have no excuse, the reality is that your comfort will not last long. While you might not be directly affected by climate change, I hate to break the news to you, but scientific evidence show that it is only going to get worse.

I am not a silly, naïve 24 years old child. I simply value justice and don’t accept discrimination and I aim for change in everything I do. I have a vision of a better world and that’s what keeps me going. Unfortunately, I am surrounded by bulldozers that are actively crushing my vision in the name of realism, economic prosperity and social norms and expectations. I might not and likely will not, change the world, but I absolutely have no excuse not to try.