[Video] Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground

By Justine Moonens and Andrea Vasquez

Yesterday we went to a very interesting event called “Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking.” This was a very educational session to understand what fracking is, how it is done, and what is its impacts on health, food systems, water supply, and ecosystems are. The panellists were Bill McKibben (350.org); Joaquin Turco (Argentine Workers’ Central Union -Autonomous); Sandra Steingraber (EcoWatch, Author of Living Downstream); Wenonah Hauter (Food and Water Watch and the moderator Kassie Siegel (Center for Biological Diversity). They shared striking facts, stories, and ways to go forward with the audience.

Here is some information about fracking before you watch the video. This term indicates the extraction of fossil fuels that are contained in the bed rock. The mechanism used is called hydraulic fracturing, basically it is breaking rock with high water pressure. Millions liters of water are used just to frack one well. Fracking water contains toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, mercury and many others (we mention some because we know that most of you remember your chemistry classes!).



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.


Happy Gender Day?

By Andrea Vasquez and Niclas Aleff

Yesterday was Gender Day at COP, a topic that is of a lot more importance to the issue of climate change than one might think at first glance. But the question of gender equality quickly leads to and raises general questions of justice in societies and therefore concerns questions that should also be raised at COP21.

After two days at COP and several discussions, side events, and one plenary session that we have attended the amount of new questions that are on our minds by far outnumber the amount of questions that have been answered.

We are starting to wonder what the objectives of these events are. It appears that critical questions are rarely raised and events rather provide a platform to present oneself in the best possible light than to encourage an authentic discussion which addresses the actual problems and issues of those whose voices are highly underrepresented or not heard and recognized in the negotiations at all.

P1070008We wonder about the way that those groups most vulnerable and affected  by climate change are treated and recognized. Why do those who suffer the least decide the most – is that our understanding of justice, equality, and solidarity in the 21st century?

During Gender Day different organizations organized sessions acknowledging women’s role in global change. The three events I attended portrayed exemplary cases from around the world and how in the UNFCCC languages and negotiations around a more gender inclusive perspective started to appear.


Just in 2007 during the COP 13 in Bali, a group of participant women from different parts of the world, concerned about the strong male biased decisions, perspectives, languages in the negotiations, and programs resulting from the UNFCCCs, decided to do something about it. After presenting the idea to an official to have their own constituency they were told “This meetings are highly political and technical, there is not space for women’s constituency.”

Since then, there is the intention to have more inclusive language; 1/3 of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs, recognized the role of women in global change. Also, in the side events we were able to learn about indigenous women’s stories about their specific struggle and resilience in face of global change. The panelists were diverse and distinguished: Vandana Shiva, Mary Robson (Foundation Climate Justice), Winnie Byanyima (Oxfam International), Marie-Monique Robin (film director). I had the privilege to listen to and be in the same room with P1070007 (2)indigenous women that are on the front lines, those who care about Pachamama and are giving their lives for a healthier future for all of us; Ursula Rakova (Papua Guinea), Mama Aleta (Indonesia), Regine Mboyo (Congo), and Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa).

Indigenous and women: Intersecting voices in the front lines

One of the panellists, Patricia Gualinga, explained how the Kichwa women from Sarayaku (Ecuadoria Amazon) made the decision to be the main actors of their lives and stand strong for a healthier future for their families in face of the drivers of global change. As many other indigenous women from different indigenous territories are on the front lines of the defense of life and directly dealing with pressures from a resource-hungry modern world.

“Many believe that removing the rights of indigenous peoples they are hurting us. You are hurting yourselves because there are invisible threads that bind us among each other and between us and Nature” — Patricia Gualinga

Her objective of traveling long distances is to generate a global consciousness to REALLY address climate change. She encouraged us to look for deep and structural changes and to governments not to criminalize women that have been defending their lands and families:

“Many women from my community have been imprisoned and dragged along the streets” — Patricia Gualinga

How can we, indigenous women, be part of the solution?

Indigenous women are taking the solutions into their hands and those solutions have to be recognize. They are striving to leave coal, minerals, timber and oil on the ground in order to have a healthy forest that enables live instead of death, while putting their bodies on the front lines to save our planet and our species.

“The only arms we need are those that hug!” — Vandana Shiva


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Time for Innovative Carbon Monitoring System

By: Asti Aryudhea Utama

Hi! It is great to be here and the atmosphere here in the venue is so great, full of spirit and everyone is exciting to be actively involved to reach the best decision this year.

As we know, every day there are many side events held in COP. Every side events has different interesting theme to discuss, but in this article I just want to share you one of side events I attended, and I think it was consist of something that is innovative because it is new system supported with modern technology and it will be great to be adapted to other counties.

The side event was “Strategic Climate Change Partnership : Opportunities and actions in Developing Countries”. The discussion was about the actions to monitoring the carbon emission and the respond actions to combat climate change. What made me interested about this side event was because it is important to see how the actions to combat climate change from all the nations are, included developing countries. As we know, many of developing countries are having difficulty in funding to build technology to protect their country from big impact of climate change. The discussion was highlighting the role of strategic partnerships and policies in implementing climate change actions from developing countries. Discussion was focused on the way to combat climate change through climate change legislation, low emissions development, climate change agriculture, renewable energy resources, SLEEK (The System for Land-Based Emissions Estimation in Kenya). SLEEK is the system that accurately estimates and tracks its carbon emissions in the land sector. The most interesting topic in this side event from my perspective is (SLEEK).  SLEEK will help to put information to communities. SLEEK will provide data that used to develop apps that can help farmers and communities in a wide range of ways, such as informing decisions about which crop need to be planted, how many cattle their land can support, and the data about trees that are  likely to survive. Maybe need big funding for this system, but I think the use of this system is great to be adapted to other countries as the way to effectively involved in climate change action. Because to monitoring the carbon emission is important to know what should we do as the respond of the carbon condition.

Further information can be seen in this website : http://www.sleek.environment.go.ke/


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.



COP 21, not just a negotiating process

By Jesse Way

Here in Paris at COP21 there seems to be two camps of people when it comes to how we can collectively address the monstrosity of a challenge that is climate change. On the one side there is a large contingent of those that believe we can buy our way to the solution and that if we throw enough money at the problem we will surely solve the issues at hand.

This concept is brought forth repeatedly in the various side events at COP 21. International Organization A, or High Level Expert B discuss how well they understand the challenge of climate change, they go on to describe the amazing work they or their organization are doing to come up with solutions and they congratulate one another on being leaders in the fight for a better future.

In one such event yesterday hosted by the Global Environment Facility titled, ‘Beyond Grants: Innovative Blended Finance’, Sean Kidney, the CEO of Climate Bonds Initiative, offered his ideal future as one in that COPs of the future would not be negotiated by Environment Ministers but by Treasurers as the problem of climate change would be addressed by making the right investments in ‘green’ finance and ‘clean’ technologies. Through such ‘green’ investments the argument goes, we will be able to move towards a carbon free future where all new technologies are ‘sustainable’ and alleviate as opposed to contribute to a changing climate.

Somewhat in the shadows at COP21 there remains a second camp of people, a camp that seems to still sit somewhat on the sidelines of the conversation, still struggling to have their voices heard.

There is no doubt in my own mind that these so called green investments in clean technologies, whether it be renewable energy infrastructure for solar and wind power or electric vehicles and more energy efficient appliances, are all an essential component of a more environmentally friendly future.

But is it enough?

Many of us believe that a more fundamental shift in how our society and we as human beings perceive and interact with the world around us is necessary. In order to change our actions we must alter our behaviour, this requires a change of attitude which in turn relies upon a transition in the way in which we think. No small task to be certain.

My view and that of many of us in this second camp of people is that the true problem at hand is a growing disconnect between us as human beings and the natural world that sustains us. We consume without consciousness, having little or no idea of the environmental impact of our consumptive behaviours.

We must find ways of reconnecting with the world around us to better understand how our daily behaviour and routine actions impact our environment.

To me the problem we face is an ecological one. We as human beings are a mammalian species of planet Earth for which we are consuming our resources beyond the carrying capacity of our environment.

How much water did it take to grow the food we ate for breakfast? How much land was required to grow the cotton in the clothes that we are wearing? How many trees were cut down to build the houses in which we live? What was the impact of the mining operations to find, extract and manufacture the rare earth metals in our electronics? These are questions we should be asking of ourselves and of each other.

We must reconnect with our environment and reacquaint ourselves with the natural world around us.

In lieu of being another skeptic with a myriad of complaints and criticisms but no solutions I offer you this: GROW (some of) YOUR OWN FOOD. Reconnect with the soil and the water, get your hands dirty and become once again a part of – instead of apart from – the ecological processes that govern our lives.

What good will this do you may ask. Who am I to offer such suggestions you may question.

Well I am a youth with a voice, a person with ideas.

We must not remain silent any longer. IFSA member Salina Abraham at the closing address of the Global Landscapes Forum stood up and made her voice and the voice of youth heard loud and clear and we must too!

(If you haven’t already check out her speech here!)

We are not merely youth of the future, we are people of the present and our ideas and opinions matter.

We all have something to contribute and offer in the dialogue on how do we move forward towards a more just and equitable world. My experience here in Paris and so far at COP 21 has more than anything instilled in me a drive to take action and make my voice heard.

So I will offer my own suggestion for a better future once more, GROW YOUR OWN FOOD, reconnect with the natural world and stand up and let your voice be heard!

What are your ideas? What are your solutions? Share them with the world!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

By Justine Moonens

In yesterday’s blog Jesse talked about the disconnect he felt when attending events in Paris. I totally share his opinion. Most side events here are just promotion for the solutions, or non-solutions, that countries and businesses are promoting. But, sometimes you can find a rare gem and actually learn something meaningful. Yesterday, I attended a session about indigenous peoples in the artic and the role of youth organised by the Nordic youth council. I left the event with the feeling that these peoples message should be spread. Instead of being held in a small backroom somewhere, this session should have been one of the main side events.

For the WP_20151208indigenous peoples in Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia a 2°C global increase in means an 8°C increase and the eradication of their way of life. We are only starting to notice the effects of climate change, but they are already living with the consequences since the 1980’s.In Alaska several communities had to be relocated over the last years due to coastal erosion.The Sami people in Lapland are loosing hundreds of reindeers each years to ice breaks in places that 10 years ago used to be totally safe. Since the 1990’s climate change is a political priority for them and they are very active in advocating their position. Despite all these efforts, their governments are still not hearing them.Many projects are taking place in their territories without their consent or any prior discussion.

The climate solutions promoted at the COP often mean the end of their way of life. A Sami woman told us that in Sweden mountaintops are  blown up to install windmill parks. These mountains are crucial for the reindeer herds on which many Sami depend. Many communities have become unable to continue their way of life. Climate change mitigation at this price is  unacceptable. These sort of practices take place everywhere in the world. This morning on the shuttle to le Bourget I heard the stories from two indigenous women about what REDD+ really means for them. Since the start of REDD+ projects several communities in her region have been displaced. Even if this should not be happening according to the safeguards! Another women told that carbon credits are allowing oil refineries to increase their greenhouse gas emissions. This causes serious respiratory disorders and other health problems in her community. For them REDD+ is just a way to sell the air.

It is more than worrying that civil society is being excluded from the negotiations. To ever have an equitable agreement these voices of indigenous people, youth and the whole of civil society should be heard. Not only heard but taken into account. At the national and regional level, indigenous people need to have decision-making power in the projects that affect them.

I want to end this article by reflecting on the words with which the Sami woman ended her talk,

we are the land, we are the water, we are the wind

While I think we are to disconnected from our living environment to be applicable to us. We should reconsider our relationship with the earth.We, as society, cannot go on living like we are completely detached from our ecosystems and act like there are no planetary boundaries. Which is what many here at COP still believe.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Day 1 of Week 2 at COP21, my first impressions

By Jesse Way

After a week in Paris participating in the Youth in Landscapes Initiative and attending the Global Landscapes Forum it has finally come time to step inside COP 21 and see what is happening inside the venue at Le Bourget!

My ideas and perception of what to expect for the event has very much been shaped by my previous experience with IFSA at the United Nations Forum on Forests. At UNFF in New York all plenary sessions were held in one main conference hall with working group meetings split into two, all being open to civil society groups and individuals at the conference that were not part of official country delegations. The official negotiations around wording of the text agreement were directly visible for the eyes of the observers to see while individual country meetings and negotiations were held behind closed doors.

IFSA is the focal point organization for the Major Group Children and Youth at UNFF and so although limited, we had opportunities to speak and present within the forum to offer our ideas and suggestions for inclusion into the text.

I knew coming to Paris that our role would be more limited and the scale of the event would be much larger than what I had experienced in New York. I quickly came to discover just how much larger COP 21 really was as people continuously emptied off of the many packed free shuttle buses and made their way into the venue.

Going through security I felt almost as a sheep must when being corralled through the gates as we were divided into lines for our bags to be checked and our identities confirmed. I digress from describing the negotiations themselves but given the heightened awareness around security measures in Paris I feel this part of the experience is one that resonates deeply for me. I understand the need for such security measures and very much appreciate the efforts that have been taken to ensure the safety of those of us attending the event but I do believe the discussion around the need for increased security not only here in Paris but throughout the world, what that means for personal freedom, and how we have come to this point is a topic that should not be forgotten when describing how these major global events are organized and operate. But that is a discussion that can be continued after a little more insight into COP21 itself.

Upon first entering the venue the first task was to become acquainted with the set up and layout. There are numerous airplane hangers with additional structures built on and within that make up the various halls and pavilions of the venue. Upon touring through the various buildings and seeing much of what was going on it became almost overwhelming to try to establish a plan for how to organize and prioritize my activities and involvement for the day.

I first tried to attend the High Level Segment in which Heads of State, ministers or other heads of delegations that were unable to make statements during the original Leaders session that opened COP 21 last week were doing so now. I was denied access for lack of proper accreditation but eventually made my way to La Loire Plenary Hall where large screen TV’s were broadcasting the statements for us to view.
20151207_120712My original feeling was one of disconnect, I was here in Paris only a few hundred meters from where these statements were being made yet I sat separate and felt uninvolved from the proceedings. A feeling of disconnect has been a common theme for me this week in Paris as I have listened to presentation after presentation and speaker after speaker discuss the global challenges we face in combating climate change and yet when they offer their solutions of increased funding for projects and increased cooperation amongst the world’s leading organizations working to solve these problems I remain hesitant to fully buy in. I hear stories of how this person represents this group or speaks on behalf of certain people yet I cannot help but feel there remains a large disconnect between these people in these high level positions and the people on the ground at the front lines of a changing environment.

My first impression of the event is that much of the involvement of civil society through the many pavilions and activities that we have the opportunity to be a part of is merely a facade to give legitimacy to the proceedings. Perhaps I am just tired and overly skeptical but regardless I do believe it is a topic to be investigated further.
There does seem though to be a overwhelming concensus on a need for change and strong action and so I remain optimistic and excited for day 2 at COP21!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Let’s talk about money

By Niclas Aleff

One of the key issues of fighting global warming is the financing. It appears as a fact that in order to tackle this problem effectively, big corporations from the public as well as the private sector will have to act in concert. This of course includes investments away from fossil fuels and is often linked to a reorganization of the corporation’s strategies and structures. Today I attended a side event titled “Mainstreaming climate change within financial institutions”, which was hosted by Corporation Andina de Fomento (CAF), Asociacion Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), and the European Investment Bank (EIB).P1060989

At the start of the event, world bank’s vice president Rachel Kyte defined the term “mainstreaming” for the following session as well as the “Common Principles for Climate Change Adaptation Finance Tracking”, a set of voluntary principles developed by the Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) and the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) preceding COP21. The objective of the principles is to effectively track adaption finance in order to invest in and support sustainable development projects. According to Rachel Kyte the 26 banks who have submitted to the principles already see this as an opportunity for themselves, and their clients to be first-movers. To reduce financial risks and inefficiencies, the network consisting of banks that have submitted to the principals shall also provide a platform for knowledge and practice sharing.

The introduction was followed by the panelists explaining their understanding and interpretation of the five principals.

Enrique Garcia, CEO of CAF, emphasized the bottom-up approach of the principles and underscored that mainstreaming of adaptation finance in financial institutions can only succeed, when the senior management is convinced of the economic and ecologic sense and therefore supports the implementation of actions against climate change in the corporation’s strategies and structure.

One of the key ambitions of the project is to “bring it forward”, as detected by Jonathan Taylor, vice-president of EIB. Tools like the mentioned knowledge sharing platform will be essential to attract and finally convince other financial institutions than banks of the opportunities in adaptation finance.

The event as such was interesting as it gave an insight on the financing methods of development projects as well as the mainstreaming of climate change issues into banks and financial institutions, a topic that I personally have been unfamiliar with so far.

However, in my opinion it needs to be mentioned that the event also provided a platform for banks like Credit Agricol, which according to banktrack was still one of the Top10 coal banks in 2014, to improve their public image.

For this reason I’m leaving the event with mixed feelings. On one hand I am hopeful that voluntary approaches like this one are a first step to integrate banks, the big players of the private sector, into the financing of climate change related projects. On the other hand I am afraid that instead of doing the second and the third step the toddler will fall back on his knees and crawl again.

Find the principles here.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.