Maurine Winkley from the Rainforest Partnership attended COP17 in Durban, South Africa over the last two weeks. Below are some of her observations. Don’t forget to check out Maurine’s other guest blog for us about the incredible work of the Rainforest Partnership.
The Life of a COP17 Delegate
The COP is wrapping up today. So as we wait for negotiations to end and decisions to be made (or put off until next year), I am reviewing the past week and my experiences here and want to give all of the curious folks out there some insight into what it is like to participate in this conference.
I am writing as a COP 17 Observer who is attending her 3rd Conference of Parties. I started in Copenhagen in 2009, was in Cancun last year and am currently in Durban. I can start by saying that this is the first year we have applied to be an official delegate to the COP and in the past have attended parallel conferences. You may ask why we would not be part of the official negotiations. Well, as you know, the UN negotiations move slowly. There are so many stakeholders involved in the outcome that it is hard to come to agreements that may affect one country negatively and another positively. The parallel conferences, we have found, can be just as productive in connecting with other individuals, organizations and businesses that align with our mission. Throughout the city that hosts the COP there are many other ways for one to participate in the happenings surrounding the climate negotiations. Hence in the past, and this year (in addition to the COP), we have attended Forest Day, the World Climate Summit, Climate and Development Days, Business Day, and the Trade and Climate Change Symposium.
Being on the inside and outside of the areas where negotiations take place is incredibly interesting. Not only are you connecting with people that care about the earth’s future, but also people from all over the world. We have met everyone from a chief of a Masai tribe in Tanzania to Jane Goodall to heads of large multi-lateral institutions and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Last night on the bus there were about 10 of us and the languages being spoken were Spanish, Japanese, English and Zulu. Pretty cool mix if you ask me.
Niyanta Spelman and Maurine Winkley with Jane Goodall (Photo courtesy of Rainforest Partnership)
The COP-related exhibits, located outside of the badge only area of the conference, are another draw as they highlight sustainable design and development of technologies. Below are some of the pictures I took while walking around the facilities.
Gardening exhibit at COP17 (Photo courtesy of Rainforest Partnership)
The living beehive exhibit at COP17 (Photo courtest of Rainforest Partnership)
To give you an idea of what Durban is like, it is the third largest city in South Africa and a tropical metropolis on the Indian Ocean. Everyone I have spoken with that is visiting the city for the first time describes it as somewhere they have visited before. And they are all different! Surprising to me, my first thought as we flew beneath the layered clouds before landing in Durban was how similar the outskirts of the city were to the outskirts of Tarapoto, Peru, the Amazon city one must fly into to visit Rainforest Partnership’s partner community of Chipaota. These areas are marked with thick, bright green forest and silty-brown rivers with increasing views of agricultural land as one nears each city. See views from the plane below.
View from the plane to Durban (Photo courtesy of Rainforest Partnership)
The days are long at the COPs as one has so many ways to engage. Between the actual negotiations, official side events, parallel conferences, exhibits, running into interesting people receptions and dinners, one is lucky to get any rest at all. One may arrive tired the next day, but after beginning to engage with people working in the climate change space, the energy is revitalized and we all do it all over again! So I will leave Durban, happy with my participation in the conference, but a bit sad as well since we don’t have time to waste discussing climate change. Action is the only way to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate of our planet. With or without and internationally-binding agreement, Rainforest Partnership will continue to do our part to mitigate climate change by working to improve livelihoods and protect the world’s remaining rainforests! I know that readers of this blog will continue to do their parts to protect our remaining resources.
For further info about our participation in COP 17, check out the Rainforest Partnership blog where I have been writing about the conference, general negotiations and forest-specific negotiations. There are also posts on our Facebook page and Twitter!