This post, the first in a series from the members of the AAA delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, was authored by Shirley Fiske.
Already, even before I step off the plane in Cologne/Bonn (indeed, even before I get on the plane), I am preparing myself for the Council of Parties (COP) meeting which is much more than a meeting of the state parties to the UNFCCC, the signatories to the Kyoto and the signatories to the Paris agreements. And yes, the US is still a party to the Paris Agreement, even though Trump declared we are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement (PA). Technically we can’t withdraw until 2020.
While there will be no US government- sponsored pavilions with multiple agency displays (the small official US delegation is led only by a State career civil servant), “We’re Still In,” as implied by the the pop-up movement that has bubbled up from the US, whose delegates include state governors and municipalities, and philanthropists like Tom Steyer and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Governor Jerry Brown will be one of the keynote speakers, and our AAA delegates (Susan Crate, Naveeda Khan, Julie Raymond, and myself) will be there to support the US show of strength. While at the conference, AAA will also have credentials to enter the Blue (diplomatic) zone, a tightly regulated venue where all of the State delegates are located. Along with other NGOS, ENGOs, and institutions, AAA composed a “High Level Statement” of concern (see our Anthropology and Climate Change webpage), which will be posted along with the others on the UN website. Even the Pope wrote and posted a high-level statement.
The COP Meetings seem to have evolved over 23 years into more than state dignitaries negotiating and countless UN “bureaucrats” working on progress reports for decisions and adoptions. The COP meetings have taken on the air of hopeful, world-class celebrations and festivals combined with focused activist events – all in support of climate change. With public art installations scattered and concentrated throughout the city, displays of visual scope and grandeurs provided by NGOs in pavilions and outside, ad film screenings, it almost rivals the scope of the Venice bienniale or the opening of the Olympics. The AAA will host two screenings of “The Anthropologist,” seeking to understand climate change across the globe, among other activities. There is even a theme song – “We are an island.”
More than 20,000 attendees are expected — Dashikis and long burkhas, robes, and business suits. There will be there different “venues” or areas for events, which one will be forced to traverse the city to find all the art installations. I for one, am eager to find the “Minister of Plastic,” which will be a wonderfully ironic look at the role of plastic in our lives (and therefore C02).
The celebratory and festival-like atmosphere is a necessary antidote to the formalities of such a conference. The celebratory aspect, with public act, displays of resistance and concern, serve as a way to bring people from all over the globe together. This (Kyoto Protocol) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is truly and “experiment in global governance,” and that fact is vastly overlooked.
Shirley J. Fiske is an environmental anthropologist at the University of Maryland. She recently chaired the AAA’s task force on Global Climate Change, and has written extensively on anthropology and climate change.