The Most Important Lesson from COP24

Going into the 2018 UN Climate Conference I had so many goals and ideas of things I would learn about. But what I got out of it wasn’t on my list – and I am so happy it wasn’t.

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What I Expected

I thought going in that I would learn how the negotiations happened.

man and woman shaking hands
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The Negotiations are notoriously slow and often uneventful. I wanted to learn why that was so that I could change it! I came in with a fiery passion that we as a world were not moving fast enough – so maybe by viewing the negotiations I could get an idea of why. I didn’t think I could solve it, its a complex issue, but I at least wanted a reason why.

I wanted to know why because I wanted to know that apathy wasn’t the reason. Was it miscommunication? Misinformation? Or were the procedures just out-dated and inefficient?

I’m here to tell you – I never once saw a negotiation.  I do not know what or why the negotiations go so slow. But I am okay with that.

What I Got

The most important lesson I learned: the people involved in the conference are people just like us! 

group of people raising right hand
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Seems silly – right? It’s not. It was one of the most ground-breaking realizations of my life. I think going in I thought maybe there is a hierarchy of people – the ones that are a little smarter and more well-spoken they get to make the decisions. The people in charge are just like us – which means we can become the people in charge!

I came to this realization because of a few observations:

  1. My first panel I went to – I had it all ready. I had my notepad and pen, and also my laptop in case I couldn’t handwrite fast enough. I was paying attention with laser eyes, when I noticed one of the panelists side check their phone and smile and respond to whatever they saw.
  2. A panelist took a picture of us – the audience – who were all busy taking pictures of them! Photo-inception!
  3. Many people that other students in my group were suppose to interview got sick and had to stay home.

Now these observations may seem boring and everyday realities. If you thought that you would be right! But within their mundane truth was my most important lesson.

  1. People in charge check their phones and do not have an infinite attention span.
  2. Even the higher-ups are pumped about this conference and their opportunity to attend!
  3. No one is invincible.

Giving personality to the people in charge of the conference, and waiting in line for the bathroom with a minister made me realize how reachable our goals really are. Our goals aren’t just castles in the sky – people just like us are out living them everyday – and we are allowed to join them! They are waiting for us.

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