Reflections on a Week in Marrakech



As our 787 banked right to begin our final descent into Casablanca I caught my first glimpse of the Moroccan landscape. It was greener than I expected. On the ground I was struck by the warmth of the weather and the people. At the airport I was given a free sim card and then met the host with whom Jonas and I were staying the first night. He told us about how Marrakech has developed over the years, his passion about how great the city is on full display. After dropping our stuff at the riad we began to explore the area, talking with street vendors and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of this city. The pride of the Moroccan people was on display everywhere we went, clearly demonstrating how proud they were to host the UNFCCC COP for the second time. Giant red banners reading “ACT” lined the streets and reminded us that this COP is one of action and implementation.

At the COP, the negotiations went far smoother than I expected, with very few disagreements between the Parties in the meetings I attended. Of course much of this was due to the extensive bilaterals and informals that were going on in the background. We were not privy to these discussions, where I’m sure most of the fireworks and arguments were occurring. However, there were some disagreements during the final plenary, which had to break multiple times to help the Parties reach consensus. Bolivia and Brazil engaged in a back-and-forth about whether the adopted text was balanced enough, with the former refusing to support the language. During the breaks, China and a few other Parties worked with both sides to help all involved reach consensus. The COP President worked hard throughout the night to keep the mood light and encourage cooperation. He even had everyone in the room sing Happy Birthday to the Mali delegate before he had to rush off to catch a plane to Madagascar. The Parties ultimately reached consensus and concluded COP 22/CMP 12/CMA 1 around 1AM on Saturday.

The side events at COP 22 covered a wide variety of topics and all the ones I attended were rewarding. I had anticipated that some would fall flat but my expectations were exceeded. I was able to attend a few sessions held at various country’s pavilions, which exposed me to many different perspectives. Often these events had refreshments too; -an immense boost during the long days. While some ran a little late, almost all had an opportunity for questions at the end. I think the best part of the side events was the Q&A sessions that followed each because the speakers were less constrained than during their presentations. Many of the speakers stayed after the sessions were over and answered questions one-on-one. A couple of times, when I didn’t have to run off to another session, I was lucky enough to speak with a few of them.

The most rewarding part of our COP experience was working with our service-learning partners to help them better understand the process and participate in the negotiations. Like most LDCs, our partners struggle to procure the resources needed for sufficient staff to attend all the meetings and negotiations that impact their interests. During our briefings we presented on the negotiations and a few relevant side events we attended and then answered any questions that our partners had. After the more formal presentations we broke off into one-on-one conversations and were really able to dig into the issues. It felt great to see how our work was helping them. Despite everything going on at home and around the world the COP was uplifting and inspiring. The progress set in motion in Paris cannot be stopped.









Law for the Community and the World: VLS at COP20

Today’s work by the VLS delegation at COP20/CMP10 walked the talk of the law school’s motto, Lex Pro Urbe et Orbe.

The 10 delegation students are engaged in a service learning project with the Myanmar State Party IMG_5233Delegation, one of around 50 Least Developed Country (LDC) parties who have signed the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.  LDC delegations are typically very small.  For example, while delegations like China, the EU, and the US each numbered over 100 members at COP19, Myanmar’s delegation counted only two.  To effectively engage in the negotiations literally requires being in at least three places at once.  Exhibit A: Today’s ADP contact group split into two concurrent sessions on adaptation and finance, while at the same time sessions took place in the SBI, SBSTA, and joint SBSTA/SBI – not to mention a half dozen side events.

To build capacity, the VLS delegation is supporting Myanmar in three key ways.  First, we are tracking negotiation sessions on topics of interest (ADP, LDM, CDM, REDD+), taking notes when this small UNFCCC state party delegation cannot attend and thereby multiplying its presence at COP20.  We are then briefing Myanmar on these meetings both in writing and orally.  In addition, we prepared two rounds of pre-COP briefing memos.  The first set focused on COP process and procedure, to help Myanmar more effectively navigate the UNFCCC negotiations. The second set presented research and analysis on these four issues of interest, to help this LDC delegation prepare for the COP20/CMP10 negotiation.


Shaula (center) briefs Myanmar delegates on LDM issues.

Today our first-week team’s LDM expert, Shaula Eakins, briefed the delegation on the first two days of negotiations and side events on point.  Likewise Whitney Beckham, the first-week team’s expert on ADP Workstream 2, briefed our Myanmar colleagues on opportunities for funding under the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  In this way, students learn while serving and serve while learning – and extend the reach of VLS beyond our Vermont and U.S. borders.