Een kort verslag van Shana Hepping (de dochter van mijn vriendin Linda Dijkstra van Bee-Dressed) uit Groningen die een minor doet in Madrid en zo de kans kreeg om de Klimaatconferentie in Madrid te bezoeken.

Insights on the Climate Conference:
By a stroke of luck, I got the opportunity to attend the UN Climate Conference as a delegate for Chilean social organisation FUDESO. It’s my first time at a COP, so full of hope I went to the conference; I felt the importance of the conference vibrating in the air. Energetic. Enthusiastic. The set-up of the Climate Change Conference is like every other conference: representatives of every I(N)GO and country are present. There are meeting rooms where ministers come together, offices where country representatives work and lecture halls in which advocacy groups advocate their ideas.

Outside there are activists, some dressed up as globes and cows, some in traditional dresses and others scanting slogans and holding up signs. The ambiance is activistic and motivated. But this is not reflected inside of the building, there, the ambiance is formal. The attendees of the conference are businesspeople, rigid scientists and restrained politicians. They are the people that participate in the events. But at those events, both the people participating and the subjects that are dealt with are not fresh or renewing. The same old information is circulated: “if we don’t do something, the earth will beyond repair”, but we don’t do anything. Meeting after meeting we determine that politics is at the heart of the problem. Researchers from Chile and Argentina say so, marine biologists point it out and the IPCC stresses it too. In the meantime, the worlds’ top politicians are discussing the future, speaking of not reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement, adjusting these goals and not quite specifying the means of achieving the goals. #TimeForAction they say while avoiding making effective and rapid change. No hard action will achieve no hard progress.

We know for some time already that we won’t fulfil the goals set at the Paris Agreement, but still everybody seems to be shocked by the facts. Arjen Lubach airs a show about the negative impact of consumerism and the whole Netherlands gasps. There are still lectures at COP25 discussing the causes of climate change, or the impact it has. This is not new information. Isn’t it time to move beyond stating the facts and start discussing real solutions? We don’t fulfil the SDGs because everybody points at each other. Governments point at MNCs, MNCs point back and the consumer takes a step back saying that “an individual can’t make a difference”.

There is a lot to say about the sustainability of the event as well, there are piles and piles of single use paper cups and at every stand there are stacks of paper flyers and folders. Of course, there are good justifications: you can never be a 100% green, Madrid had little time to organize it and, of course, the positive future outcomes of the conference could exceed the burden on the environment now. But I am wondering if this is the way to accomplish change. The Climate Change Conference is a product of the current system. And is as much in a political, technological and economical deadlock as the system itself. The system is aimed towards technocratic solutions: innovating existing technologies and finetuning the existing practices rather than achieving radical change. This narrows the perspective for change and limits thinking about alternative, rigorous method. We need system change to combat climate change.

Maybe I am a little bit disappointed, but I know that we shouldn’t give up hope. Walking around the conference, I met a lot of people with the same ideas and ideals as I. These are people who are passionately working on achieving change in their own communities, ranging from the educational system in Australia to a small indigenous community in Panama, from a high school in Germany to my student room in Groningen. What I think is most important is to keep talking about change on all levels of society, but also to listen to each other. Sustainability should be integrated into everyone’s lifestyle. Only then the system will change. It is time for action.

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