COP21 Day 2: Infrequently Asked Questions

If we thought Day 1 of COP21 was jam-packed, Day 2 has been even more so. Everything is going on at the same time: this afternoon our delegation was spread out across events on carbon pricing, indigenous land tenure in forest conservation schemes, faith groups combatting climate change, and food security. I could try to give you a full reporting of everything that went on, but there are two problems with that:

  1. It would take me hours to compose anything near good enough, and
  2. The International Institute for Sustainable Development already publishes daily summaries in their Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

 No, a dry reportage of my to-ing and fro-ing of the day will not do. Instead, I bring you answers to the questions you never thought to ask: these Infrequently Asked Questions.


How many special “Day” designations can we fit in one day of the COP?At least three. Today is Antarctica Day, Food/Food Security Day, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. You may also be aware that today is World AIDS Day, but that didn’t seem to get much mention here – interestingly the field of public health does not appear to have strong presence at COP21. (It’s also possible that they have a massive presence that I haven’t encountered due to the sheer volume of pavilions, events, delegations, announcements, and so forth.)


On a scale of 1-10, how much fun is the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice?
Three. I checked out the SBSTA opening plenary this morning because, unlike yesterday, observers were allowed in all the halls today. Security must be less now that there are not so many heads of state all in one place. When I was stopped entering Plenary La Loire for the SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) meeting, I thought they had spotted my yellow Observer badge and wanted to turn me back. But the security guards just pointed to the DSLR slung over my shoulder and told me “It is not allowed to make pictures inside.” I can deal with that…but that is a few marks deduction on the 1-10 Fun Scale.

The plenary is exactly as gigantic as you might expect. Spaces with placards and microphones for all 196 party delegations, plus at least 50 NGO/multinational delegations. Risers with rows of chairs at the back for observers. I sat in this peanut gallery while the president of SBSTA read things in to the record for a good 20 minutes to open the work of this COP. It was fairly predictable except for her comically quiet gavel, which sounds like a plastic toy. All three Fun Scale points derive from this delightful noise.


How is the COP like an evening at a speed dating event?
“Next speaker, please.”
“Let’s exchange cards.”
“Would you want to meet up for lunch later on?”

Panels. So many panels. Today I attended a panel discussion at which there were too many speakers for the size of the table, so they did the first half of the panel and then they got up and rotated speakers. It begins to get a bit dizzying, “meeting” so many people. It’s a bit like speed dating, except instead of hobbies and personal quirks, the topics of discussion are justice, equity, and the future of the planet.

Here's a panel! "Stability and irreversible climate impacts in Antarctica"
Here’s a panel! “Stability and irreversible climate impacts in Antarctica”
And another! "Advances on the implementation of the Joint Declaration of Intent signed by the governments of Peru, Norway, and Germany"
And another! “Advances on the implementation of the Joint Declaration of Intent signed by the governments of Peru, Norway, and Germany”
And yet another! "Women at the front line of climate change take action for system change"
And yet another! “Women at the front line of climate change take action for system change”


Where does Sweden border the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Come on, you know this one: at COP21, of course! The allocation of pavilions and office spaces seems to make rough geographic sense, but some pairings leave me scratching my head. This afternoon I attended an event at the Peruvian pavilion, which is right next to the Nordic pavilion. The event was about the Joint Declaration of Intent (focused on mitigation through forest conservation) between Peru, Germany, and Norway, so I can accept the Peruvian-Nordic neighbour pavilions. When I walked a little farther, though, I found the Finnish office…the Swedish office…the Congolese office? No word yet on joint projects between Sweden and DROC.

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