If one of our delegates hadn’t already been to the inter-sessional meeting the year before, we probably wouldn’t have found the Conference centre at all. Walking from the underground station, we wound through residential suburbs and tree-lined streets before rounding the corner to a concrete area with a large glass building before finally finding the some-what hidden entrance to the Conference hall. Met by security guards, one felt a similar feeling to going through security at the airport (not that we flew here), before being shuttled into line for registration. After taking a rather unflattering photo in Trump shades of orange, that unfortunately will be kept and used again for coming years, we got our barcodes scanned and were let loose inside.
The arrival to the Conference centre was less dramatic than anticipated. After collecting our translation headsets, we wandered up the stairs to the New York Hall balcony in order to watch the Opening Plenary of the SBSTA. We found our way to the right side of the balcony, which gave us an overview of the Secretariat and the Party Delegations below. From where we sat we could see the stream of people flowing in and out of the Hall. All in all, it was a very casual environment. After a few minutes, the meeting was opened and the SBSTA Agenda adopted. While this sounds quick, it was in fact not. Anyone who has ever been to an annual Board meeting will understand. That said, the new favourite phrase of at least two UU Delegates is now “I hear no objections. It is so decided”. This may even be adopted into our every-day vocabulary.
After two hours of SBSTA Agenda adoption and hearing the opening statements from various parties and interest groups, the Delegation went down to the lunch area to meet with Matthew Stillwell, a negotiator with the G77 group. He gave us a general overview of the negotiations, the various problems and power structures, including the issue of money provision, or rather there lack thereof. It was the uncut, raw version of the UNFCCC, one that requires years of experience and reading through the lines. After taking up an hour of his time, we ran off to our first side event: CDM and NDC’s: The Way Forward. Although it was most certainly an interesting and informative meeting, the lack of air in the room and our inexperience with the seemingly endless amount of UNFCCC acronyms meant that the discussion was confusing and hard to follow. Not even the micro-bursts of sleep helped.
Finally, after one and a half hours of googling acronyms, we decided to go to our last event of the day. This turned out to be the opening Plenary of the Technical Expert Meeting, with focus on Land-Use and Urban Environment. Present at this meeting were, among others, the Mayor of Quolimane in Mozambique and Martin Frick, Director of Climate and Environment Division at FAO (Food and Agriculture at the United Nations). Although only the introduction, this turned out to be a very interesting meeting, and the most educational of the day. Not least as the floor was opened up for Civil Society and other organizations, which led to statements about Indigenous Peoples, the environmental implications of excessive meat and dairy consumption, and questions about connections between Climate Change and the war in Syria. This brought the meetings back down to Earth again, a necessity in our eyes as sometimes the political correctness and the excessive use of dry acronyms makes the negotiations feel intangible and far too far away from the reality in which they are intended to influence. Finally, after a few more statements, the meeting was closed early and we took the tram back to our Airbnb. That said, this was thus far the most informative meeting and we look forward to participating in the rest of the Technical Expert Meetings as they continue throughout the week.
All in all, it was a fairly good start to the week. At the very least, it was as expected.