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COP22: Notes from a first-time delegate

By Angelo Kairos T. Dela Cruz

Editor’s note: The author is the Associate for Climate Policy of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. This is the first of series from Kairos’s dispatches from Marrakesh, Morocco, where he is participating in his first major UN climate conference.

I arrived at the Marrakesh Menara Airport after more than twenty hours up in the air, plus several hours of waiting in transit, across three flights. I was tired from being squished by two seatmates, famished after missing in-flight meals, and surprised to find that the weather was a bit colder than projected. Yet somehow, I was ecstatic to finally be here to attend the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

My colleagues and I hopped on a shuttle that took us near Riad Amin, our home for the next two weeks, and immediately got a first-hand experience of Moroccan architecture, from the door knobs to the light fixtures. I savored my first tajine and espresso at a nearby café, as if I unconsciously knew that I had to take a deep breath before COP22 began.

Queueing seemed to be the theme for day one. Instead of heading straight to the COP, our taxi had to first stop at a checkpoint manned by an actual cop. We were panicking until we saw the long queue of other taxis, cars, shuttle buses, and the occasional horse carriage. After finally arriving, we still had to line up to get our badges.

I avoided looking like a noob, but stepping in the COP22 space was a big thing for me. I got the chance to hang out with some of the veterans in the negotiations. I walked with giants, figuratively and literally. I made it my mission to make mistakes and learn, get lost following events, make new friends, and tell the story of the COP to those who are not here.

One week has passed since I arrived in Marrakesh. A lot has already happened and many more developments are expected to unfold in the last week of the conference.

And I might get lynched for saying this out loud, but in general, I think the negotiations have allowed a handful of “elites” to flourish unchecked. The COP process is not easy; it is complex and requires a high level of attention to detail. It smirks at clueless newbies like myself.

The first day was emphatically confusing, but as with any baptism of fire, endurance is rewarded. As the days passed by, I slowly realized that the COP elites, including those from the Philippines, are guilty of failing to simplify and contextualize the implications of the climate negotiations for the country. Instead of blurting out acronyms, I think we should be talking about localizing climate information and assessing national practices. Instead of talking among ourselves and congratulating one another for a job well done, we should be engaging legislators and ministers, among others.

COP can be difficult but it not impossible to understand. Let us not make it harder to understand than it already is.