Archive for December 12th, 2007

Ellen weighs in…

[editor’s note: Due to some minor technical difficulties I wasn’t able to get & post Ellen’s blogs until today… slightly unfortunate delay, but well worth the wait to read her insights into the UNFCCC experience. Thanks El, for taking the time to share!]

12-07-07: EJCC’s Arrival in Bali: Initial Thoughts and Expectations (from Ellen Choy, currently in Bali)

Flying from Atlanta, Georgia, Flagstaff, Arizona and Oakland, California – thousands of miles and 3 plane meals later – we, the representatives of EJCC, official delagates to the UNFCCC, have officially begun our time and work here in Bali! As soon as we touched down at Bali’s international air terminal in in Denpasar we were slapped in the face with Indonesia’s 85-degree, 90% humidity wet season climate – a rude awakening to the physical acclimation we would be enduring in the next ten days. Nevertheless, coming from plunging winter temperatures back at home, I think we are all smiling at the anticipation of living a short, tropical December. In our car ride to the hotel we experienced left-sided steering and more motorcycles than we could imagine filling the streets, which provided us the other element to our welcoming into Bali. Quickly reminding us of the reason we had come to Indonesia, UNFCCC paraphernalia is decorating all major streets and passageways within a 20-minute radius of the conference. From large bright orange UNFCCC banners hanging from every other tree to gigantic billboards displaying messages on climate change (my favorite: a “Climate Change…Protect the Vulnerable” billboard sponsored by the Indonesian government), it is clear that this conference has caused the world, for two-weeks, to turn its attention to this small, but beautiful island. And yes, EJCC is here, ready and excited to jump in head-first.
Arriving during the interim weekend of the two-week conference, luckily we will have a few days to experience both the culture and the climate shock, as well as get our bearings on what’s been going on before we throw ourselves into the conference trenches. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us, and a lot of both personal and collective expectations to fill. We will be four of only a handful of people of color coming from the US. We will also be one of very few US-based climate justice organizations. In a very North American, white-dominated pool of participants, it is clear that EJCC will be a vital voice in any discussions and debates we enter. We will be going in with our sound knowledge base of climate change issues, domestic and international, as well as our fearless agendas to openly report back on what we observe through our climate justice lenses and to be a strong presence as climate justice advocates. The magnitude of this conference is being reflected in the massive media coverage it is receiving globally, so we are not shy about the work that is ahead of us. If anything, this is to be a learning experience, as climate justice is the issue of our generation and this conference is the manifestation of some of the most important international decisions that will be made in our lifetime. While most back in the States are pulling out the scarves and firewood, we’re layering ourselves with mosquito repellent and sweat-drenched shirts – what seems a small sacrifice for the profound effect our presence here at the UNFCCC can potentially have.

12-10-07: Lieberman-Warner Talks in Bali: A Rude Awakening
Our first day at the conference was a little overwhelming, despite the two hours it took standing in Blainese heat and humidity to finally get ourselves registered and walking through the doors of the Bali International Convention Centre. The level of activity was more than expected, but we clumsily got our bearings and headed into the side events and caucus meetings our firt-day agenda channeled us to.
Most of what my post-registration day consisted of was attending a special Lieberman-Warner side event, presenting the bill and a panel of speakers who were directly involved in the bill’s crafting. Tony and I attended, entering a small room filled to the brim with observers and note-takers, amongst which we soon learned were scattered multiple US congressional staff representatives as well as other high-profile delegates, many from the European Union. The spotlight was shared by Chelsea Maxwell and David McIntosh, chief climate aides to Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner, respectively. As both Tony and I’s very first experience participating in the conference, this event provided a rude awakening to the struggle we, as climate justice advocates, will be facing in the coming week. As the only debate open to NGO participation on the leading climate legislation in the US, there was a complete lack of conversations around equity or justice. We saw it critical to engage ourselves in the discussion, but it was clear that the politics and special interests in the room fostered an environment where a CJ voice was almost unwelcome.
90% of the talks that happened in the room were flooded with highly technical jargon around deforestation and offsets (a central issue at this year’s COP/MOP), and how Lieberman-Warner is acting (or not) to incorporate international offsets into its cap and trade scheme. There was a complete lack of address of community impacts in those conversations – not surprisingly reminiscent of the bill itself. Even a direct question we were able to slip in to Ms. Maxwell on what is happening to better address vulnerable communities was responded with a quick shoulder brush and a “come talk to me in DC” push aside. Slightly discouraged, but provoked and fired up for the rest of the week, our first experiences at the conference provided us the day’s lesson for our work here: while the conference center is flooded with signs, banners, brochures and t-shirts promoting climate justice messages, actually injecting those concerns in discussions and debates occurring will demand us to yell loud and continue to push to represent a voice so often muffled by the dominating interests here at the UNFCCC.

12-11-07: Making Moves in the Youth Caucus
Today was a big day for the youth caucus, as they completed the final statement they will be reading to the high-level plenary on Friday as their official statement as the youth representatives. And Tony and I were able to fully, and loudly, participate. Having now been widely exposed to the activity here at the conference, it is clear that these statements will be some of the most important opportunities, if not the most important, to influence anything politically and legislatively substantial happening behind closed doors. The youth caucus’s statement will act as a demand for action amongst the government delegates to push for stringent policies on climate change. Therefore, given the invitation to participate in the small working group drafting the statement, both Tony and I quickly jumped to make this the focus of our work today.
It was clear that our input was needed. The youth caucus consists of over 200 delegates from many countries, largely dominated by delegations from Canada, the US and Australia (surprise, surprise). Furthermore, only a handful of those delegates are people of color, narrowing the actual representation of communities of color from both the North and South overall to maybe 10% of the total youth caucus. I almost felt uncomfortable noticing the intrigued response from the room when Tony and I entered as youth specifically representing communities of color in the US. But the sense of community in the room as the youth caucus was sufficiently unifying, and other representatives, such as groups from Japan and Indonesia, were refreshingly not shy to show face and at least participate. Also driving active discussions to make moves as a unified youth front was the commonly sensed frustration with the COP/MOP as a highly-process-focused conversation, where specific issues and voices, such as the youth, are not being heard. Instead, narrow talks around post-Kyoto and North-South politics are dominating discussions. This triggered the concensus that this year, more than ever,the youth, as well as other special caucuses will need to present strong, cohesive fronts.
Tony and I sat down with 5 to 15 (busy schedules caused people to jump in and out) youth delegates to refine and revise the drafted statement to be read Friday at the high-level plenary. We really stuck our noses in the process, to fight for inclusion of climate justice language, as well as simply fortifying the policy demands the youth will be presenting in the statement. It is clear that we cannot back down at any point during this conference or more generally in any work we do in similar spaces in which our communities can be affected by conversations that are happening here. Even in specialized forums, such as a youth caucus, where a lack of justice principles is evident, we are called upon by our place on the EJCC delegation and as representatives of our communities to push for an inclusion of a strong CJ perspective. My expectation is that it will be no small task to continue to fight for what we are here to stand for, but that there still exists significant potential for us to be heard. In fact, because of our presence today in the youth caucus, we have been invited to present a climate justice testimony in tomorrow’s international youth press conference.


Ellen Choy,

EJCC Program Associate


December 2007
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