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The Game of Climate Change: My First COP Engagement – By John Carl T. Alonsagay

By 2. November 2017 One Comment

In a sudden rush of things, I was about to face one of the most historic events in our time, spanning for almost 20 years now. It is to make mankind’s 196 states to agree and make action on how to heal the damages it did on the planet since the 10,000 years of its existence and almost three centuries of industrialization.

Pre-Gaming: It was always no easy business for me, I am just a hackneyed college student who deals with research papers and doing the stuff for the Alpha Team Organization – which had been on my task lists for the last 13 years. Most of ATO’s members had been with me since my childhood.
We started this strong organization of fraternity and social cause since I have been in my elementary days. From its beginning to be an alliance of those pupils who are bullied turned out to be today a starting youth organization building up an international connection for a cause.
One of those causes was the launching of ATO’s project entitled: “ClimatEducate” in April 7, 2016. This was immediately formulated upon the result of our training with former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Al Gore, in Manila last March 2016 through his Climate Reality Project. “ClimatEducate” started out like an art project, together with ATO’s relations officer and also my cousin, Crystal Maureen Santillan and Ms. Rubina Karki of Nepal. They are with me in the training, had pushed the small project under ATO’s flag.

Level 1: Greater leaps Intertwining with my academic works, I worked with the Project 24/7 in April and May; we had our first project membership application in Mid-April 2016 and gathered 8 educators, artists and advocates from the Philippines, Nepal, Yemen and Indonesia. Some became my close online friends, and I have seen how dedicated they worked for the development and expansion of the project.
It continued for months, and I didn’t expect to have connections with almost all major locations in the Global South. Some of them were very young, high school students; artists who had their own understanding of how climate action should be; educators who are enlightened with the global movement for this cause. The Project was formed online, and not everyone affected by climate change had personal computers or mobile phones. “ClimatEducate’s” primary platform was online. This is the first reason to shift the project’s mode of action directly to schools and communities. This would become our Non-Online Initiatives which we call “NOI”.

Level 2: Road to the real game Graphics and NOIs are the project’s instruments that brought a satisfactory global audience in our online hubs. A series of these initiatives were repeatedly carried out our team in Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria. In my perspective, these actions were the cause of why we did make it to the COP.
Spending hours and weeks with my PC, trying to perfect our flat vector graphics and making sure that it adheres to the standard designs. Week by week, hour by hour, time zone by time zone, we tried to sharpen the purpose of the project. We tried to come up with the idea to use these presentations as a way of connecting to schools and communities.
The hard work paid off in the middle of the Project’s engagement when the Climate reality Project Philippines Country Manager, Rodne R. Galicha, who had already been in the climate advocacy for years, offered to include a slot for the members of the Project for the Philippine Youth Delegation to the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakesh, Morocco.
After days of deciding, Crystal, who is also the Project’s Associate Director, advised to give the slot to me, though I had wanted other members to get the opportunity. I decided to carry on pursuing ATO and its project’s interests in its first participation in a major international event.
I find myself in an impending crash with my academic works which would reach its end in for the last semester of my undergraduate course. For the remaining weeks, I was busy cleaning up my course works before leaving for Manila. In Manila, I rejoined other climate leaders for the Future Negotiator’s training, finally meeting Ms. Jessica Anne Sanchez, our Director for Graphics, Design and Creatives; Beatrice Ann Dolores, our Director for Partnerships and Relations and JC Albert Peralta, our Science and Solutions Adviser. We discussed possible future projects to be implemented and our position for the UN Conference. Though the organization has a large number of members in the Philippines, I have always sought to diversify the project and the organization as well.

Level 3: Flying all over the Eastern Hemisphere I flew out of the country in the rush of things. I was almost unprepared. I got my ‘untattooed’ passport into the airport’s immigration and was asked, “are you studying?” and “will you come back from the stated date?”. It was my first trip out of the motherland, joining other Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers.
I got the transit to Doha which is why Qatar was technically my first foreign country to visit. I reflected on how the Middle Eastern country grew out of its fossil fuel resources, how it paved way to modernize and highly develop their state. While roaming the city, like other citizens of developing countries, I was able to meet hundreds of Filipinos working there, I thought of how transiting the world to give up its fossil fuel resources would hardly affect the jobs created by these industries. It was that time that climate technology and other related subjects of the Paris Agreement came to my head .
The agreement, which was signed by almost all countries of the Earth, was the world’s first carbon reduction agreement after almost 20 years of scientific research and international negotiations on how to solve the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement provided solutions including the mitigation of carbon production for developed countries and adaptation for most developing countries. But this wouldn’t be reached if funding and equity of support could be agreed.

It was kind of ironic because we travelled by plane (which also produces carbon) and contributed to its emissions. I asked that it was kind of hypocritical to do when we advocate for “carbon footprint” reduction and we still use planes. My friend told me: “We have no choice, we have to wait for a few years and solutions will certainly arrive to substitute plane fuel or something that would do as a “renewable energy”.”
I tried to study some UNFCCC for 18 hours while being in the city and during my first flight to North Africa. Surprisingly, I realized that our project has been associated with the Paris Agreement‘s means of implementation’s subject of capacity-building
There was another 6 hours and I reached Casablanca with 15 degrees Celsius slapping my face. I did not expect to feel that cold on my first ever visit to the cradle of mankind, which is Africa. There was another 9 hours we waited for our flight to Marrakesh, which was often called the “Red City”. The city was freezing in almost 8 degrees preparing for the conference.

Level 4: ‘Gaming’ in UN Climate Negotiations The next morning, I went straightly to the COP village in Bab Iglhi in Marrakesh. The organizers had to come up with landscaping and designing the place which is a bit disappointing after seeing air conditioners, unseparated trash bags, hearing fossil fuel companies funding the event.
It was all meetings, talks and formulation of policies for all states to go. For the first week, I was busy meeting youth leaders, promoting the thrusts of Project and the Alpha Team Organization. ATO appeared as a newbie in the ‘game’, but I realized that the creative & social activism it pursues should look on the other way. It was totally a game; I actually worked with other negotiators who actually worked for more than 10 years, others even since the UN’s initiation of plans to create a framework to tackle climate change upon its discovery, which later became the UNFCCC.

Final Level: The Game is not over In the last days of the COP, the Marrakech Action Proclamation, a statement among the countries involved to pursue political commitment in adaptation efforts, funding and support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, was discussed. The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action emphasizes the common vision for accelerating climate action. Listening and observing in coordination meetings, working with my country’s delegation and meeting a lot of NGO and Youth Leaders have made my first COP attendance very satisfactory to our efforts to introduce the ATO and its project to contribute and share the values of cooperation, humanity and social activism.

The Author:
John Carl is currently a Board of Trustees Member of the Alpha Team Organization-ATO, Inc., a Philippines-registered non-profit youth organization. Carl also is a Graphic Artist in the ATO-ClimatEducate Project. He became the youngest member of the Philippine Delegation to 22nd Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016. He is currently engaged in climate change education in South Asia, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. John Carl is also involved in advocacy policy and conservation efforts in the Philippines.