The Strange & Difficult Journey Navegating a UNFCCC Summit

By Alvaro Alfaro Morales

Curriculum Director for OYE & COY15 General Coordinator

Flying over the Andes Mountains. In some areas, the snowcaps are disappearing.

Flying over the Andes Mountains. In some areas, the snowcaps are disappearing.

I’m sitting on a plane thinking, en route to the UNFCCC Intersessionals, thinking of all I have to accomplish in a short space of two weeks. At least my seatmate is a kind lady and any babies on board are sleeping peacefully. I have a quiet space to think. 

The first hours of the trip are spent soaring above Chile. Looking out the window, it is possible to see, to the far north of the country, how dry everything is. As you pass over the semi-arid zone, you can even see some reservoirs that- once filled- are mearly filled to half of their capacity at best. Then, comes the always majestic, mesmerizing Andes Mountains. Mountains, seemingly endless, with less snow each time I pass over them. Why is that again? Oh, yeah! That’s why I’m on this journey. 


Next is a quick pass over Argentina, and then many hours passing over Brazil, one of the countries that keeps us alive. Brazil could become a billionaire country if they decided to cut down their forests to sell the timber, but for now they have decided to be the lungs of the world. And maybe they deserve an award or payment for their efforts. And I don’t mean the miserable carbon credit system, No! I mean something real. This part of the flight is beautiful, where we pass over the Amazon, forests, cropland, grasslands and all the green of the country that gives us hope that we still have time to save the world. 

And then we begin the long journey over the Atlantic, where the only thought is “can we please get back over solid land!”… and... that “one day, I would like to see it up close”, studying the marine life that is still living despite the competition each time more unfair against the plastic.

And then, without much fanfare, there appears Europe. The land that once was the most contaminating place on earth, yet now raises its voice to tell everyone that it is time to change, and aspires to be the leader of this change. Here, above Germany, I think about just how real those words and promises might be. 

As I walk out the doors of the airport onto German soil, I find a train station, that leaves me but 10 minutes walking distance from my lodging. There are thousands of people moving through the city of Bonn on bicycle, and trains that reach to nearly every corner of the country, if you know which transfers to take. 

My first surprise of this country that tries to be green, is the public transportation system, sustaining a system of light rail, electric busses, and the old Euro VI. 

My second surprise is the amount of green space and trees in every corner of the city. Here in Bonn, there is an infinite park that runs all along the shoreline of the Rhine.

My third surprise is how many colors of bins there are to separate their garbage. Between the drawings, a decent Englishman, and some very kind Germans, I figured out how to properly separate, classify and subclassify the waste so that it could be recycled and not end up in a landfill. Germany is one of the countries that recycles the most in the world. I think the UNFCCC has picked a good residency. 

Can’t help but smiling when public transportation is this easy!

Can’t help but smiling when public transportation is this easy!

But anyways, enough with surprises, enough with marveling at the journey, it’s time to work! Time to remember what we have to do! A day of policy training begins. There are Yugratna, Jonas, Clara, Heeta, Serena, an excessive number of people called Sarah or Sara, and many other empowered young people, men are 40%, women the other 60% or maybe more.

Yugratna and Clara had started to speak, listened to them attentively, in one day, I have learned more about diplomacy, climate change, protocols and partnerships, treaties and articles of the Paris agreement, than I have learned over the past year. My gratitude to them is deep, they have made me a better environmentalist in one day.

Enter Jonas, explain systems, ways to participate in negotiations, and what is the place of young people in them, has a deep knowledge of specific points. 

And then I know something that months ago I saw as distant, I know YOUNGO, the official constitution of young people in front of the UNFCCC, a horizontal collective, where there are people from many different organizations, some who go out to pick up garbage, others who reforest, others who care for animals, others who work in environmental education (I feel at home), and many others.

With all the above, I understand that young people are active, we are prepared, and we are in action, the COY15 will be part of something much bigger than it. It will be part of the struggle, it will be part of the work, it will be part of a whole, that seeks to save the world, I understand that to navigate, this world of the UNFCCC can row with others, and I devote myself to that task with full enthusiasm.

That evening, my colleague arrives. Bernardita, an intelligent and diligent engineering student, is a big help for an education graduate like myself. Essential for the hard management and deliberations over numbers and budgets. Together, we have come to SB50 to launch the 15th Conference of Youth, or COY15. 

COY15 serves to prepare the youth with the proper skills to effectively participate in the negotiations, develop their capacities to create solutions to climate change, and to share best practices, experiences and life lessons. But above all, COY15 looks to bring the youth to action, and to keep up the motion of those who are already acting. I heard a great diplomat say “Some adults have fallen in love with the negotiations, but the youth pursue results”. 

And then, with all of the above I entered SB50, the intersectionals, the mid-year conference, which tries to ensure that the Paris agreement is complied with, and to be an effective bridge between a COP and what happens to it, moving from Poland to Chile is the task. And then what?

In the following blog, the vision of the negotiations and the participation of young people.