Last Monday, five of us -Jeanne, Lise, Max, Pandora and Sophia- had a meeting with the new UK delegation for the UNFCCC negotiations at BEIS, in Whitehall. Three members of the UK delegation attended the meeting: Archie Young, the lead negotiator, Kevin Hunt, Head of Stakeholder Engagement, and Helena Wright, Policy Advisor. Our aims were multiple, including:
· Establishing a relationship of trust with the negotiators
· Finding out what their main goals for COP22 were
· Getting an idea of their position on the three main topics that will be covered at COP22, namely loss and damage, climate adaptation and climate finance.
· (More long-term) Laying down the groundwork to integrate youth voices in decision-making processes on climate change issues.
We left the meeting with mixed emotions. A mixture of anger about the lack of coordination between the international and national climate policies of the UK, hope at the potential to get youth voices heard, annoyance at diplomatic language that is so good at avoiding controversial questions, and happiness at the nice interaction we had with the new delegation. I asked everyone who attended the meeting to talk about their main highlight or nadir of the meeting:
Lise Masson: “I felt frustrated as our lead negotiator avoided controversial questions on subjects such as loss and damage, and stated clearly that the national implementation of international commitments was not part of his job, therefore excluding questions on sensitive topics such as Heathrow expansion and fracking. National and international climate policies cannot be worked out in a totally independent way.”
Pandora Batra: “I came out of the meeting feeling positive about or relationship with the negotiators and hopeful about future collaborations- whether this was as a result of their schmoozing skills or genuine willingness to work with young people towards achieving common goals- I reserve judgement for now. In terms of their positions on crucial issues, I found their dismissive and defensive stance on loss and damage to be disappointing and rather short-sighted but was encouraged by their focus on using public finance to leverage private finance and their willingness to put pressure on the private sector to pull their weight in the fight against climate change.”
Jeanne Martin: “My overall impression of the meeting was positive. I felt that the negotiators had a real interest in meeting with us. I am really keen on finding a way to bring youth voices to the negotiating table and actually contribute to the making of climate policies. They seemed open to this idea and agreed to discuss it more in depth in January. This may have been a diplomatic way to put this issue off the table – but I will make sure that it is not, and will continue to push for the inclusion of youth voices in decision-making processes about climate change.”
Sophia McNab – “I was nervous going into the meeting but it went smoothly so that sets us up well for next time. We all learned a bit about the art of lobbying and how to express polite disagreement. Next time, I want to push them harder on the 1.5C temperature limit. Their position was that increasing global mitigation ambition has to be balanced with limiting backsliding and delivering on existing commitments. Where’s the urgency? Where’s the leadership? Readers with a passion for climate education, known as Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) at the UNFCCC, will be disappointed at their blank faces when asked about the UK’s ACE focal point.”
Max Forshaw- “Perhaps I should not have been surprised to have received diplomatic answers from a successful diplomat. I felt that during our meeting neither the UKYCC or the UK negotiating team will have changed their positions going into the negotiations this week, and it was clear that there some differences on perspective with respect to issues such as loss and damage, and the UK’s NDC under the Paris agreement. However, I personally felt that the meeting laid the groundwork for more productive cooperation between youth groups and the government in the future, and it was very motivational to have played a small part in that.”