Cecilia Pineda ’11.5, an environmental studies concentrator, writes about a rekindled sense of hope at the U.N. global climate change conference. She is among 10 Brown students attending the conference with J. Timmons Roberts, director of the Center for Environmental Studies and professor of sociology.
My eyes skimmed up and down the aisles of the plane for potential COP16/MOP6 attendees during my Boston–Cancun flight. I found myself making quick judgments as I categorized people as vacationers/party-goers/retirees or climate negotiators/environmental activists/students. The small passenger beside me seemed to be making a similar judgment about me when she asked her grandmother, “Who’s that lady? Is she happy?” Her grandmother replied, “Of course she’s happy. Everyone here is happy because they’re on vacation.”
It’s true, I was overjoyed by the opportunity of going to a conference where 15,000 delegates, nongovernmental observers, and activists from all over the world would unite to talk about the environment (not to mention the additional 180,000 belonging to the civil society, who came for their own side-conferences about climate change and the environment). However, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness — a somewhat familiar feeling as an environmental studies concentrator — when my neighboring passenger said everyone on the plane was about to vacation. The media, and consequently the public’s awareness and attention to this year’s global climate change talks, pales in comparison to what it was for last year’s conference. Last year, I had the sensation everyone was talking about climate change: The New York Times had an online section dedicated to the negotiations, and expectations for Copenhagen soared worldwide. Copenhagen soon became “Hopenhagen.”
This Monday marked the opening day of Cancun’s global talks on climate change. However Monday’s front page of the New York Times was covered with information concerning the leaked cables which severely add to the skepticism and cynicism of diplomatic negotiations. Furthermore, the United States declared “modest” participation in this year’s negotiation process. This in combination with Copenhagen’s frenzied and disappointing end has lowered many countries’ hope that a comprehensive climate treaty will emerge from Cancun. I myself lost much hope in the negotiation process after the Copenhagen fiasco. However, the more I learn about the negotiations in Cancun, the more I have rekindled a sense of hope.
The Cancun conference sets a concrete set of goals to accomplish. Although these may seem small, they are tangible stepping stones on our global path to face climate change. In addition it is inspiring to see several nongovernmental and governmental organizations actively working toward creating awareness of components they believe are necessary to include within the United Nations’ global climate change policy. On Monday I had the chance to talk to nongovernmental organizations and attend a side-event which advocated for the inclusion of gender in the climate change negotiations. I was so impressed by the momentum and support for a greater gender equality within the global climate policy making.
It was also great to finally meet the Plataforma Climatica Latinoamericana on Monday. Their interests match up so well to ours! I am incredibly excited to work on the Pataforma’s new blog: Intercambio Climático: Latin American perspectives about Climate Change. As we continue to attend the conference, research, meet conference participants (both haphazardly and for the sake of our interviews), and co-write blog entries, I am eager to carry on this upward trajectory of hope.