Stay Optimistic!

Today was our third official day observing the UNFCCC COP 23. With only three days into the convention, it’s great to see every one of us has already become exceptional conference attendees, making meaningful connections and maintaining a busy calendar to gain a broad range of perspectives from various panel discussions and events in the country pavilions (not to mention finally remembering to squeeze in lunch!). Not only that, we have also become quite the navigators in the Bonn-Cologne area. Just yesterday, for instance, Cole and I were able to put our knowledge of the COP 23 venue to good use for networking and help Mr. Hasmukh Patel – the CEO of the only energy company in Fiji ­­– find his way to the Bula Zone, where he will be participating in negotiations.

On the train ride to the convention with Mr. Patel, we conversed about the significance of Fiji becoming the first Small Island Developing State to assume Presidency in empowering them to communicate their message. Small island states are the immediate victims to climate change ­– a +1.5°C warming would mean they will be overwhelmed by severe climate impacts. However, with the recently passed Paris Agreement and with Trump’s announced intentions of backing out, countries’ current NDCs are proving unattainable even at the original 2°C goal that would still have devastating effects for them. Mr. Patel mentioned how the recurrence and damage of the tropical cyclones has already noticeably gotten worse in recent years. Fiji today faces the uncertainty of not knowing when the next big cyclone will hit and wipe everything out. The most recent large-scale cyclone, he talked about, was the Cyclone Winston, which hit in February of 2016, costing the country $1.4 billion dollars in damage and taking over six months for reparation in his power plant. Mr. Patel, however, remained positive about the outcomes of COP 23 and told us he is grateful for having the chance to lead the conversation on climate change this time.

To wrap up our busy day, our class congregated for the first time since arriving to reflect on our experiences in Bonn so far. We agreed that networking with people and attending interactive sessions proved to be very rewarding experiences for all of us, which is what we decided we all will focus more on going forward with the time we have left. We also realize it is us – the younger generations – to keep optimistic and keep pushing forward on stronger climate action, like Mr. Patel, despite all of the differing agendas we are also observing at this conference.