By Jakob Hörl
The first day of COP21 is over and we are back in our apartment. Our brains are still steaming from today’s experiences and impressions. Our feet hurt from having walked at least 20 km through conference halls and corridors to attend interesting side-events and see different sessions. The security check and registration has been less crowded than expected and we could make our way in pretty easily. To reach the site of the COP21, we just had to catch one of the shuttle busses provided for free by the French organisers. The venue itself is located on an ancient airport in the north of Paris, where a temporary village consisting of halls and huge white tents has been erected.
Going to the venue, one could clearly see that the French government is taking security measures serious. The closer you get, the more police officers with machine guns are patrolling cross-roads and blocking-off streets. Nevertheless the situation is calm and peaceful.
Inside the event, it feels like a different world, a microcosmos of people from all over the world. You can hear people speaking all sort of different languages, some are wearing their traditional costumes. Camera teams are walking up and down the corridors, trying to catch politicians and important people. Delegates are flowing in and out of sessions and everybody seems (or pretends) to be very important. So it happens that you run into Al Gore, who is surrounded by people wanting to take a picture with him. Or you see Vandana Shiva giving a live interview at a French TV station.
It takes us a while to figure out everything works here and to get an overview of the site. There are different areas. One for observer organisations, where many NGOs have their booths and show the work they are doing related to climate change. Another one houses country pavilions in which countries present themselves and host side-events. Some provide free coffee and juices, others have warm lunches.
This time, some of us had their lunch at the Indonesian pavilion, which served traditional Indonesian cuisine. However, as they were one of the only ones doing so, the buffet quickly became crowded and people started to push to get to the food. It was interesting to watch how even high politicians in prospect of free food would spare no efforts to fill their own plate. Such behaviour is very reflective for the prevailing human nature and maybe is exactly the reason, why so far nothing has happened to fight climate change.
Today was also special, as many important heads of states have attended the opening ceremony of the COP21. However, we could only feel that something important is going on, as all NGO representatives were denied access to the plenary sessions. The speeches itself, we could only follow on large TV screen hanging on the walls around the conference venue.
So we ended up attending many side-events that focus on particular issues and invite experts of certain topics to present them to a wider audience. The aim of these side-events is to inform decision makers and through that have influence on the ongoing discussions. Our first impressions was that the quality of side-events was highly fluctuating. Some where really good and well organised and others did not have translators. During one that was organised by some Chinese organisations, it was just impossible to attend, as non of us speaks Chinese.
Overall, we can say that our first day was very fruitful for the IFSA delegation at the COP21. We managed to get an overview of the location and attended most of the side-events. We are looking forward to tomorrow and will report more into detail about on-going negotiations and happenings during the conference.
Cheers from Paris!