This post by Shirley Fiske is part a series from the members of the AAA delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
The daily schedule of meetings listed a Plenary session, called the “Presidency’s open dialogue between UNFCCC NGO constituency representatives and Parties.” Promising; sounded like the right groups (to meet) would all be there. Since the AAA submitted a “High Level Segment Statement,” this would be a good ground-level vantage point to see and meet.
Two items informed the ‘dialogue’ between State and non-State actors: How to contribute to the development of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and secondly how to engage civil societies more closely. Dialogue that brought “Parties” and non-state actors together, the latter being the generally recognized “constituencies,” or the RINGOS and Farmers, and YOUNGOs (the younger people, resesarchers, activists). The State Parties are nations like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Poland, the EU, and the US. Over 40 roundtable participants showed up.
Unfortunately, it was not a dialogue, but a formulaic delivery of statements that went on for two hours. The US waited to be acknowledged—visible evidence that the US is still active and engaged and making comments on negotiations and is a party to them. The US rep opened with, “I know I am not supposed to say this….but I appreciate the efforts of all the groups at this COP meetings.” This was the closest to an acknowledgement of the Trump administrations actions as I have heard. He continued that hearing all the voices is very important, and direct engagement of parties, public comment on regulations in domestic context is welcomed. (We need to take him up on this promise of an open door back in the US).
The EU said, “We strive for university actions, which means action beyond the State. This is a good platform to do that with NGOS.” The EU also stated they are holding regular meetings with constituencies here at the COP. Uganda made a statement that “We have made an honest start” at planning for NDCs, and that there should be more of these fora for non-state input and interaction.
Cook Islands gave a ‘best practices’ case study of reducing dependency on fossil fuels and enhancing human capital through training older women to be solar installers and technicians, making solar power available to a wider number of households and people, and through help from the Indian development fund and others.
RINGOs asked “what can we do to help your goals? We want to promote collaborations with your universities across geographies.”
In an impassioned statement, the YOUNGOS stated that some non-state actors are using their observer status for their own ends and are influencing the negotiators…”we are part of the solution and are monitoring their actions.”
Indigenous people said they are “rights holders and knowledge holders,” and that they want to consolidate the interests of indigenous peoples. They also added they are wary of groups that claim to represent their interests.
Ethnographic Blog Notes
In honor of the President of the current Council of Parties, the president of Fiji, the balconies and pillars of the world conference center are culturally appropriately dressed. Fijian fabric wraps the pillars, there is a re-created double-hulled canoe at the second level on display, and at the entrance to one meeting room, there was a copper bowl, with a liquid that was being strained and squeezed thru a cheesecloth. I was told it was kava. These touches add to the celebration of culture that I mentioned in my first blog.
The plenary meeting in the RakiRaki room was an “open” meeting, which meant observers can attend. Even within the restricted zone, there is another tier of meetings that are off-limits and that only “Parties” (the official state delegations) can attend. These are general CLOSED. Checking the schedule is nerve-wracking. As there is never a real abstract of the meeting topic, just a title, such as, “APA agenda item 3: informal consultations on further guidance in relation to the mitigation section of decision 1/CP.21,” “ENDA-TM, Niger: Approche territoriale des CDNs: Quel financement pour l’accès aux technologies?” and “SBSTA informal consultations on rules, modalities and procedures for the mechanism established by Article 6, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement.”
You have to know the acronyms and the code words, the articles and the paragraphs with which you are concerned. I have discovered (and been lectured to) however, that one needs to associate one’s self with the constituencies to know what’s going on. Each morning at nine the various constituencies have meetings to inform and strategize for the day. The question is—what constituency do you join?? The YOUNGOS? The RINGOS? The research institutes and organizations, like Indiana University and research institutes like law and politics? The Indigenous organizations? Our team developed somewhat of a strategy -– one of us will follow YOUNGOS and indigenous peoples, and others will connect with external events and activist activities and movements.
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.