Day 1 is over! – Impressions of the 1st day of COP21 in Paris

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!



Meet the delegation!

COP 21 (2)

Only a few hours until COP21 will officially start and our week 1 delegation will be at the heart of the action in Paris.

Meet Simeon, Eva, Simon, Olivia, and Jakob:

Simeon Max

Hi, or bonjour, IFSA people!

My name is Simeon, I’m from Germany, currently studying Forestry and Wood Science in my master’s at TU Munich. I’m focussing on international forestry and integrated land use solutions where trees can play a crucial role in the greater land use coSimeonncept. For example, this summer I’ve worked on a project that aims to integrating tree plantings in the palm oil matrix in Borneo, Indonesia. At COP21, I will follow current discussions regarding REDD+, agroforestry and ecosystem restoration. I am interested in monitoring techniques using modern technologies to increase transparency and to ensure a project’s consistent fulfillment of its goals over time. I further want to explore how communities can monitor their projects and thus increase their overall engagement in the projects’ economic, but also ecological objectives.

It will be a great pleasure to inform you about what I will learn and experience here in Paris and I hope you keep following our blog!

Best forestry greetings,


Eva von Schönebeck

Hey IFSA world,

My name is Eva, I am German and I study Forest- and Wood science in my master at the Technical University Munich.Eva

I joined IFSA 4 years ago and already could attend some international conferences. Through this I gained more and more interested in forestry on an international level and especially in climate change related topics.

If you are asking me why, I can just tell you because forests are awesome and one of the bests “weapons” we have to fight climate change. Not just because of its storing carbon but also due to many other ecosystem services like flood control or providing a habitat.

Also I like being outside in the nature and just enjoy the forests for all its beauty.

Simon Lhoest

Hi IFSA-members!

I am Simon, from Belgium. I was President of IFSA Belgium Local Committee in 2014-2015, and have today the immense pleasure to be part of the IFSsimonA Delegation for COP21 in Paris! I have just finished my Bioengineer Master in Forests and Natural Areas Management in Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (University of Liège) and I am now beginning a PhD thesis on ecosystem services and biodiversity assessment in Cameroonian tropical forests.

My motivation to participate to COP21 is a better understanding of all of the negotiations, challenges and stakes between countries pertaining to climate change. Participation at such an international conference could lead me to see how decision makers organise their discussions, arguments and attain a global agreement. All of those procedures and arguments constitute for me a vitally important demonstration of the decisions making process at an international level and could have a significant impact on my future career choices. It would also be very rewarding to share this experience with other students in forestry sciences from all over the world. In addition to meeting many people of diverse origins, it is a perfect opportunity to discuss and argue on a variety of topics of mutual interest. Arguing different points of view and exposure to other cultures is for me essential.

I hope that I will be a good representative for you!


Olivia Sanchez Badini

Hello, IFSA world!

My name is Olivia and I will be part of the IFSA delegation attending COP21 during week one. My hometown is beautiful Mexico City, and I am currently based in the US pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. My focus is on the relationship between human health and nature in urban environments, and the implications for urban planning & design, climate change mitigation & adaptation, and ecosystem service financing. I am passionate about animal rights, and the landscape-level issue of animal agriculture and climate change.


This is the first time I attend COP, and feel very honoured to be representing IFSA in this milestone event! I look forward to following the negotiations up close. But in addition to what happens with the new Paris Agreement and the closed-door negotiations, COP21 promises to be a hub of activity for all climate-related organizations, initiatives, and projects around the world – an opportunity to come together to challenge paradigms, propose new ideas, and demand solid action from our governments and from within our own communities. The climate marches that took place all over the world are just an example of the inspiring momentum around COP21 right now.

Many of these initiatives will be in the form of side events at the COP21 venue and other parts of Paris. Three thematic areas I am interested in and will be reporting about include:

1) Climate change mitigation in cities. The world is becoming urbanized at an increasingly faster rate: by 2030, the global urban area will triple. And by 2050, 3 billion more people could be living in cities. The choices we make now in planning these cities are of the uttermost importance for minimizing heat island effects, decreasing GHG emissions, and improving human health and wellbeing.

2) Animal rights and climate change mitigation. I feel passionately about this not only from an animal rights and social justice perspective, but because the global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector and produces more GHG emissions than the entire transport sector combined (the va
st amounts of deforested lands for animal agriculture plays a big role in this). This is a great example of a landscape-level issue, where land use being at the centre-stage.

3) Human rights and climate change, including the rights of underrepresented peoples, indigenous peoples, and women. Climate change is a social justice issue, and any climate treaty has to uphold human rights and incorporate clear safeguard measures to avoid human rights violations, shifting away from prevailing power structures that have so far dominated a discourse of inequality and displacement.

Looking forward to sharing COP21 updates with you!


Jakob Hörl


Hey, I’m Jakob from Germany and am currently finishing my Master studies in Forest Sciences at Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany.

I have been actively involved in IFSA for more than 6 years now! This has provided me with so many cool opportunities, good friendships and nice experiences,  which have also largely influenced my direction of studies and life in general. Actually, precisely 6 years ago I attended COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was my first international conference and I was also part of the official IFSA delegation back then. Now, the COP21 will be most likely my last conference as student and I am happy that I can represent IFSA once more at such an important event.
In my studies I have mostly focussed on aspects of international forestry and forest policies. A nine-months fellowship program at the UNECE/FAO Forest and Timber Section in Geneva, Switzerland provided me with insight and practical experience on how forest politics work.
Most recently, I am interested in carbon markets and what potential they provide to help finance forestry and land-use projects. I believe that forests and landscapes naturally play a large role in the global carbon cycle. It is now up to us forest experts to promote their importance and alternative solution to fight climate change.
For the COP21 I have quite high expectations and am still hopeful that the international community will manage to come to a groundbreaking agreement. I guess we will only be able to tell in two weeks time! If the decisions taken in Paris will reverse climate change at the end, only our children or grand-children can tell.”