Coaland and the Colossal Fossil

A true consensus government, the COP leaves the most progressive at the mercy of the most obstinate. In this system, science deniers and climate activists battle it out, yielding ground, gaining concessions, and, often, feeling like they’ve gotten nowhere. As the world burns and our chances to halt the irreversible slip through our fingers, every small victory reminds us that winning slowly is still losing. So what do you do when a coal-loving country holds the gavel? Can observers only wring their hands as an understaffed Polish Presidency sets regressive agendas and embraces corporate polluters?

The answer, of course, is to mock them.

A hero of satire has emerged to hold the worst members of the COP accountable: Climate Action Network and their “Fossil of the Day” awards.

Each day of negotiations, CAN has chosen a deserving winner. Those who, through obstinacy, ignorance, or plain greed, continue to obstruct global climate action, all earn a place on the podium.

The list of daily finalists includes:

A Polish victory has been brewing all COP. President Andrzej Duda opened his remarks by stating: “There is no plan to fully give up on coal. Experts point out that our supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.” They’ve followed this up by cozying up to large polluters, filling the venue with single-use plastics, and holding events advertising “clean coal.”

However, most disturbing has been Poland’s battle against climate activism at the COP. At least twelve members of civil society groups and one COP Party delegate were turned away at the Polish border, including CAN Europe’s Zanna Vanrenterghem.

These activities appear to be the product of a new law banning unplanned protesters from Katowice, the COP venue. This barrier to a free and involved public directly belies Poland’s professed commitment “to providing access to information, access to participation, and remedy on environmental matters.” This has had a chilling effect on participants. Coupled with an unambitious conference agenda, the activities of the Polish government have cast a pall over the proceedings that match the one in the air.

Upon Reflection: Looking Back at a Week of COP21

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 4.32.14 PMToday the first delegation team is wrapping up its work from the first week of COP21. I am writing this post from the Relaxation Room, provided as a space to get away from the bustle that comes along with COP21. Today, most people in this room are lounging or sleeping with feet propped up and shoes off. Today, people are exhausted. But also energized.

Two days ago I couldn’t imagine a scenario where a streamlined text was successfully passed on to the COP Presidency for final negotiations. And yet here we are. The deadline was set, and the parties rose up to the challenge. Even amid our own small delegation team, members were awake into the wee hours of the night finalizing briefing memos on recent changes to the draft agreement. Party delegations were likely up even later.

This week could be charactScreen Shot 2015-12-05 at 4.19.56 PMerized as a gathering of people suffering in solidarity. But more accurately, it was represented by a group of people united in their determination to create a document that would have lasting and effective change. While at times the deadlines and the differences seemed insurmountable, in the end these were outweighed by a unified desire to change the world.

This solidarity, even in moments of complete contention, is what I will most remember from my time in Paris. People united by a common purpose can complete the impossible.