With the recent change in climate that has not only been driving Malaysia crazy but the rest of the world as well, it’s no surprise that United Nations has been encouraging countries to find sustainable methods to improve the current conditions. In line with the issue, a yearly conference known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is held to bring various nations together to debate and share thoughts on various methods that can be used to solve the issue at hand.
Three students from University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus: Azamuddeen Nasir from Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Lhavanya Dharmalingam from Politics, History and International Relations and Syaqil Suhaimi from Environmental Science were given the opportunity to represent our home country at COP23 that was held in Germany for a span of two weeks from November 6th to 17th of 2017. In conjunction with ‘Notts at the Museum 2.0’ being held last week, these three students were invited to give a talk on their experiences and how students can do their part in helping out.
Speakers of the day: Azamuddeen Nasir (top), Lhavanya Dharmalingam (bottom left) and Syaqil Suhaimi
The event started out with Azam introducing his fellow team mates to share their experiences on COP23. Lhavanya introduced herself and encouraged the audience to play a fun game of Kahoot by testing their knowledge on COP and the scope of their efforts. 10 questions were posed to the audience and each of it was explained to ensure that the audience had a clear idea of the questions being asked. At the end of the game three participants with the highest scores were given freebies specially brought back by the speakers from the conference in Germany.
One lucky member of the audience posing with the speakers for getting the highest scores in the quiz!
Syaqil started the talk by outlining the topics that he was going to be discussing such as the challenges and achievements that they obtained throughout the conference. He then went on to explain to the crowd about what COP is. Lhavanya then took over from there by explaining about their team being a part of the negotiating blocks, and that Malaysia is known as G77. Negotiating blocks are groups that consist of several countries that come together to discuss their respective point of views and arguments on climate change. She also explained to the crowd about huddles, which is basically a discussion that occurs when countries are not able to agreement and different states start pressurising each other into coming to a mutual agreement. It was also mentioned that huddles can go on for hours and will continue until all states are able to settle on the issue.
Next, the speakers went on to share about the respective constituencies that they were part of while representing Malaysia at COP23. Syaqil in particular was involved with Youth NGOs also known as YOUNGO where a space is provided for the youth called Spokes Council where they learn and collaborate with one another. On the other hand, Lhavanya was involved in Research and Independent NGOs also known as RINGO where the youths in this group are given an opportunity to propose negotiations and share knowledge with one another. Interventions were also explained, as they were given 2 minutes to give a speech on the constituency that they were representing at the conference.
A thought-provoking topic that was highlighted by the speakers was the ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’, also known as CBDR for short- an agreement where developed countries are encouraged to provide developing countries with financial aids. An interesting example provided to the audience by Lhavanya was on the emission of carbon dioxide. Most countries are encouraged to cut down on the carbon dioxide emissions produced every year. However, developing countries are allowed to emit a higher quota of carbon dioxide compared to developed countries. This measures are taken as to give developing countries more opportunities to grow and improve their industry while encouraging them to protect the environment.
A light moment with the audience
They also shared their experiences of visiting the US Climate Change Centre that was put up right outside the conference venue. Recently, after taking up his presidency Donald Trump had pulled USA out of the conference as a participating country. However, enthusiastic members of the country had still turned up to show their support using the hashtag (#wearestillin) and by setting up the climate change centre.
A video was then shown to the crowd about a tradition practised at the COP called the Fossil of the Day. It is a slot where a country or a group of countries are presented with an award when they have contributed to a particular impediment for the day.
A question was posed by a member of the audience to the speakers on whether they were allowed to negotiate at the conference. The speakers then clarified that only the negotiators are allowed to negotiate, but they were given the opportunity to help out with engagements prior to the conference.
They proceeded to outline another aspect of their experience that they were able to participate in which was known as the Climate March. The climate march was held in conjunction with the energy issues in Germany they claim to be one of the countries to best utilise renewable energy. However, Germany has the largest open-pit coal mine in Europe known as the Hambach Open Pit Mine. The mine is located on the site of Hambach Forest that has been cleared out for the purpose of mining. The march was an effort from the Germans demanding accountability for the ongoing energy issue and the sustainability of the forest.
Next, the layout of the venue itself was explained, where it was divided into two zones known as the Bula Zone and the Bonn Zone. The Bula Zone was the space where the formal negotiation takes place, while the Bonn Zone was where respective countries pavilions (bases of different countries) were located.
Finally, the responsibilities of the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) were highlighted at COP23. A conference of youth was held by MYD to simulate a world café in discussing different themes with respect to climate change, such as renewable energy. The students of UNMC also joined in representing Crops For the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) by presenting their topic on food security and the ‘Forgotten Food Network’ initiative. The MYD also organised a Youth Forum at the Malaysian Pavilion to have discussions with youths of various countries about their responsibilities. They also highlighted an exciting part of their experience which was the Asian Dinner where youths from various countries came together for an evening of food and laughter. They even took the effort to come dressed up in their traditional clothes for the evening.
The sharing session ended with the speakers encouraging students to be part of the next COP and how they can get involved in it. They also emphasised that the most important part of this whole experience was not just the conference itself, but the vigorous preparations that they had to undergo prior to the conference. So if you’re student with passion for climate change head on to powershiftmalaysia.org.my, or you could just get in touch with any of the three student representatives for more information on the experience and how you can be involved.
Written by Harishma Remanan
Photographs by Nate Ahmad