Third-year Mount Allison student Tina Oh attended the 22nd United Nations climate change negotiations (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco, as part of the Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD).
The CYD acts as a voice of the Canadian youth climate movement at international United Nations climate conferences. The youth delegation’s goal this year, according to their daily newsletter, was to “hold the liberal government to their promises—and to push for a justice-based transition to a fossil-free economy, for a path forward that respects Indigenous rights and prioritizes the needs of the most vulnerable.’’
Last year’s equivalent conference, COP21, was held in Paris. During COP21, many of the world’s nations committed to keeping the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degrees.
COP22 took place from Nov. 7 to Nov. 18. This year’s conference was dubbed the “action COP,’’ as it focused on how to implement the Paris Agreement.
Oh, who is still in Morocco, answered the Argosy’s questions in writing.
Naomi Goldberg: What are the youth delegation’s goals?
Tina Oh: The youth delegation’s primary goal is to keep the Canadian government accountable during COP22 climate negotiations. We have been putting pressure on the Liberal government [regarding] their “sunny ways” approach to their apparent pipeline politics. They cannot continue to approve fossil fuel infrastructure that is incompatible with the ambitious commitments made in COP21 in Paris last year. As well, we are asking that Canada fully implement and ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If this government wants to meaningfully reconcile with Indigenous peoples in Canada and believes in justice and equity for vulnerable communities and nations across the globe, Canada cannot afford to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure. Canadian youth elected Trudeau on the promise of real action on climate change, yet our government is still trampling Indigenous rights and still talking about expanding the tar sands.
NG: How has your experience been so far?
TO: COP22 is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It has been emotionally and physically draining, to say the least. Negotiations were infuriatingly slow, and it was specifically disappointing to witness developed nations often be the main inhibitors during climate talks. It is worth mentioning the undeniable hardship that this movement now faces in light of a Trump presidency. I cannot put into words the anxiety in the atmosphere, especially from vulnerable nations, in the days after the U.S. election.
NG: Do you feel motivated, disillusioned or otherwise?
TO: I still feel incredibly raw from COP and am still processing all that has happened in the past two weeks. The Canadian negotiating team, led by Louise Métivier (chief negotiator), hosts a Canadian stakeholder briefing every afternoon to explain to Canadian delegates the work they have been doing. The youth delegation had the opportunity to pose a question to the team almost every day, and I can confidently say that not a single question was answered clearly and properly. Often, the negotiating team would answer our question with a very condescending answer like, “Thank you for your opinion,” or, “That’s a great statement.”
I still have so much passion for this work, but it would be a lie if I said that I did
not feel disillusioned with the processes and structures of the UN. That being said, it is unbelievably important for groups like the youth delegation to keep pushing progressive agendas that the government would otherwise neglect. We have a media/communications working group whose main focus is to bring [the media’s] attention to the failures within these negotiations.
One of Canada’s main failures is that our government has implied that it has no intention of domesticating its emission reductions. They will instead reach their target of zero emissions by 2050 by trading emissions with other countries that don’t have major fossil fuel infrastructure, and are therefore below their targets. In other words, Canada is not doing its part.
NG: Is COP22 any different from other COPs? If so, what is different about this one?
TO: COP22 has been labelled the COP of action. This COP did not receive as much attention as COP21. However, over 180 countries ratified the Paris Agreement in the lead-up to COP22, so much of the negotiations discussed the implementation of the Agreement. On the last day of COP22, 48 developing nations committed to 100 per cent renewable energy. It is inspiring that climate leadership is occurring from the world’s poorest countries, but it is unacceptable for the world’s smallest emitters to carry the burden of climate change. It is Canada’s responsibility, as a wealthy nation and one of the highest greenhouse gas emitters, to step up and fund countries who are embarking on low-carbon development and to financially assist those already suffering the damage and losses from the impacts of climate change.
Visit https://www.carbonbrief.org if you would like to learn more about key outcomes of COP22.