The Malta Independent 20 March 2019, Wednesday

My experience at the 24th Conference of the Parties - COP24 in Katowice

Sunday, 30 December 2018, 22:08 Last update: about 4 months ago

Martina Mifsud

I went into COP24 anxious, nervous and on edge.

I came out of COP24 ecstatic, enriched and fulfilled.

COP24 is easily one of those priceless experiences that you can never really replace. For me, it was a week, which albeit tiring, gave me the wonderful opportunity to receive knowledge otherwise not transmitted.

We arrived on Sunday- three twenty something year olds (shout out to @callmelovely and @wesleythepooh!) with an awkwardness coming from the fact that we spanned from different parts of the world; each carrying their own culture and beliefs.

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Monday came and we were no better. But then, the sessions started. The first session that we went to as a group dealt with sub communities in North America. Though the content of the session was not particularly related to my research area, the session was a great one, delivered with great professionalism and scientifically backed-up statements. The panellists themselves were quite approachable, and readily answered our questions after the session.

The discussion following that was a round table one, dealing with vulnerable communities and their inputs. This round table discussion involved people from all over the world, from rich countries and developing countries, and even had a few members from the indigenous people within the USA. This was another great session- and the first one which left me in awe. Representatives from all over the world were in the same room, each given a fair two minutes to share their opinion, everyone respecting what the other had to say, whilst keeping conflicts at bay. I had never experienced such harmony within such a diverse group; and it was a pleasure and absolute honour to be present in that room.

After that came the first directly related session about Health, Well-being and Climate change. It was four 'Momentum for Change' award winners; presenting their winning project. These comprised of- ProVeg and KEEKS, Santiago BioFactories, SOIL compostable toilets, and the Sri Lankan Mangrove forests project. The award winners talked and presented their implemented ideas, through a very inspiring one hour talk; and explained about their approach for combatting climate change on a very large scale.

Immediately after that was a session about Bordeaux- the French wine. With a touch of light-heartedness in the solemnity of the situation, they explained how they conducted studies on how climate change will affect their vines up to the year 2050. They then replicated these conditions and chose grapes from different vines from all over the world which are already experiencing such climate extremes, such as in North Africa. Using these grapes, they produced the potentially future Bordeaux wine, calling it 'Bordeaux 2050'. The result? A wine which was bitter, dry and tannic, less elegant, and with diminished aromas, complexity and expression. The speakers deemed this an excellent way to reach people who otherwise could not be bothered about climate change. It sure convinced the audience when they offered some of us the chance to degust the said wine!

The silences started getting rarer and shorter in time between us three; all while Kristina; our amazing coordinator; kept pushing us and pushing us to post updates on social media. On Tuesday morning we had what was easily the highlight of COP. We were presented the opportunity to conduct an interview with Ms. Lisa Manley- the senior director of MARS Incorporated; the sixth largest privately held company within the USA. It was a fruitful twenty minutes, learning information which is not publicly available (although we now made it so- as can be seen on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jlt9JoEMy3Q) Ms Manley patiently sat through our questions and answered them with great attention and detail; which we appreciated.

Though the rest of the week was just as packed, the first day and a half were in my opinion the most impactful. We got a real taste of COP; a little something from all the things it had to offer. We had the opportunity to participate and voice our opinion, and the thing which truly impressed me was the receptiveness of the people, and they were not shy to say what was on their mind. Of course, not everyone agreed to everything that was said, but everyone respected what was said. There were sessions with great speakers and not so great speakers, but the information available was all rich and useful. Even the observers themselves spoke out, asked questions, argued frugally when needed and discussed opinions. It was one whole body at COP, and no one was left outside the circle. Not the shy last-row observer during the first session, not the easily judged indigenous woman during the second session, not the speaker from the third session representing SOIL, and speaking so openly about things usually hushed, not the audience member who so wanted to try and compare the Bordeaux, and, most definitely, not us three young reporters, who formed an inseparable bond during those five days, and who together with our dearest Kristina, represented YRE International for the said week. COP was filled with good people with good intentions, each keen to share knowledge and spread positivity (and, where needed, potential defeatism).

I do not have words which sum up my experience- and I am absolutely thrilled that I was the first Maltese person given this opportunity to represent my country at COP. There is nothing which I can use to describe how this week has been for me- except that I feel that it will have an impact on all of my future decisions. I would like to wholeheartedly thank Young Reporters for the Environment International for the opportunity, Ms. Audrey Gauci for being there from day one, our dearest Ms. Kristina Madsen for her patience and much needed hep during that week, and my fellow reporters; Lovely from Canada, and Wesley from Singapore. It would not have been possible without you!

 

Ms Mifsud is a Young Reporter for the Environment


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