Let us open our ears to the multitudes who are demanding change.
Let us open our eyes to the imminent threat facing us all.
Let us open our minds to the unanimity of the science.
There is no time and no reason to delay.
We have the tools, we have the science, we have the resources.
Let us show we also have the political will that people demand from us.
To do anything less will be a betrayal of our entire human family and all the generations to come.
– H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Stations
Secretary General to the United Nations, António Guterres, closed his opening remarks to the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention with a call for action. This call to action, this urgency, is without doubt the tone that Chile has chosen to set for COP25, the Blue COP.
The walkway guiding attendees to the registration desk is lined with slogans calling for new rhetoric at today’s COP—one drawing our attention from change, to emergency. The mission of this year’s COP Presidency is clear: to respond to the protests raging across the globe, to integrate science into policy, to tackle the world’s addiction to coal, to strengthen commitments to emissions reductions, and to abandon the UNFCCC’s incremental approach for one that is “transformational.”
The side events we attended as a group during our first 12 hours at COP held true to this message. The first, Global Climate Action: Indigenous Rights, Territories & Resources, turned attendees attention to the link between consumption in one nation and exploitation in another. With heavy emphasis of the negative effect of globalization, of the links between excessive consumption and human rights violations down the supply chain. In particular, the panelists discussed the devastating impacts the raging forest fires have had on the Amazon, and many indigenous communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.
Los incendios forestales tienen en llamas el pulmón del mundo
(Forest fires have the lungs of the world on fire)
Using the Amazon as a key example, each panelist emphasized the global nature of today’s local issues. The panelists concluded with a call for immediate global collective action to support and fight for indigenous rights.
The panelists featured in Nature Based Solutions: Integrating Coastal Ecosystems in 2020 NDCs mirrored the urgent calls for action expressed by both the Secretary General and the representatives from indigenous communities in Latin America. In his opening remarks for the panel, the Ambassador to the Seychelles emphasized the theme of COP25—year of ambition.
From a technical, scientific perspective, the panelists in this side event discussed the key function coastal wetlands (mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marshes) play in both mitigation and adaptation. But from a more political and general perspective, the panelists spoke to the power that Small Island Developing States (SIDS)—or as the Ambassador to the Seychelles, referred to them, Big Ocean States (BOS)—wield as a result of being both at the forefront of the battle against climate change as well as holding tremendous potential to mitigate the impacts of climate change by protecting the ocean, a carbon sink.
A panelist representing the interests of the Bahamas gave the most inspirational lecture of the day. She spoke of her personal experiences in the Bahamas, from July to September, when she and thousands of others live in fear of a hurricane, like Dorian, sweeping through the 14 islands of the Bahamas, wiping out infrastructure, flooding the streets, and leaving little but desolation in its wake. She called for the COP to be realistic about our future; about the fact that SIDS produce less the 1% of global emissions yet pay the highest price; about the fact that adaptation is not enough; about how only commitments to rapid and significant cuts in global emissions will save the lives of billions; and about how “the planet needs to understand, that there is no planet B.”
The negotiations over the next two weeks will reflect whether the content and outcomes of the agreements and debates reflect the sense of urgency in the air at the opening of COP25.