Written by: Jeremy Pivor
Sierra Student Coalition International Youth Delegate, COP 17
Student - Washington University in St. Louis
Yesterday, while walking to the ICC from the conference transportation hub, I had thought to myself how the morning routine of COP17 felt like Groundhog Day. In popular culture, Groundhog Day means experiencing a phenomenon over and over again until eventually transcending the repetition. In other words, it is the feeling of a single day constantly repeating. Little did I know this would become the subject of my blog post: Groundhog Day effect plagues climate negotiations. Very little meaningful change has developed from these COP negotiations, from my observations of the process and participation in COP17. In fact, there is an apparent continuum of the status quo. Each country stays in their corner, repeating an anticipated stance. Developed nations with the most power become the largest obstacles to implementation or continuation of agreements. Although they have the capacity to make the most change, they conversely stop it in its tracks. The groundhog day effect of negotiations is a manifestation of developed country’s inaction.
Developing countries are making a concerted effort to break the status quo. On Monday, November 28, I had the amazing opportunity to be selected as one of six youth representatives to go to the opening ceremony. Included in this ceremony was the passing of the torch for the position of COP president between Minister Patricia Espinosa Castellano and Minister Nkoana-Mashabane. There was then a strong representation from African countries including the Vice President of Angola, the President of Chad, and the President of South Africa. Each speaker made it impeccably clear the dire effects of climate change on African nations and the resulting need for effective, binding negotiations. President Zuma of South Africa laid out the stakes saying “for most people in Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death.” All three African representatives were quick to point out the danger of inaction from developed countries. Most specifically, the President of Chad referred to the lack of commitment of industrialized countries and that “this means of behaving…imperil the entire world.”
It is clear that the developing world is pushing for drastic change from the status quo in order to combat the severe effects climate change is and will have on their livelihood and survival. However, the structures of these negotiations are set up in a way that prevents developing countries from changing the course of negotiations due to procedural injustice. The negotiations are a bitter tug of war between developing and developed countries where in the end developed countries have complete control over the direction and course of negotiations. Once again, we see the groundhog day effect and developing countries having a diminutive voice.
It is the responsibility of youth to stop the status quo of inaction. We are the constituents of the future who will be directly impacted by the results of these negotiations. We thus have the privilege to impact the decisions here at COP17 and the duty to notice the many voices absent. As youth we must come together and work towards a vision of a just and sustainable future.
Yesterday was Young and Future Generations Day, which served as an opportunity for youth to voice the change we want to see at COP17 and support the voices of those who are pushing for change within negotiations. Together, youth are a powerful force that can make meaningful change happen. For the sake of those who will be most impacted by climate change and for a just and sustainable future, this groundhog day effect of the negotiations must stop. We will not accept inaction and we must hold the negotiators responsible for going beyond the expected status quo. We as youth have the ability to advocate a better world for future generations. However, we can only accomplish this together as a unified voice. That is why I urge you to join the work youth here in Durban are doing by approaching your government and demanding change, by supporting actions here in Durban with solidarity actions in your home town, and most importantly raising your voice that we as youth will not stop until we accomplish the change we wish to see in this world.
P.S. If you would like to support the SSC and the rest of the youth here in Durban, please join our rapid response network: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDNJZlRiYnFGUXFaejlNZEJFM2NVSmc6MQ