“It is only when we psychologically refuse to be European that we have issues” – Federica Mogherini at the European Business Summit 2018

By Eloise Ryon.

The European Business Summit, an event that ran from the 23rd to the 24th of May 2018, featured Federica MogheriniHigh Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission as one of their main speakers. She appeared alongside Didier ReyndersDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Belgium, on the topic of “the EU as a global actor”. I had the privilege to witness this discussion and now to analyse their words.

Didier Reynders began with the vision of a Union that is a “Champion at promoting rights”. However, the Deputy Prime Minister affirmed that the EU, in order to promote rights and liberties, first needs to be “organized at home”. The EU needs to “practice what it preaches”. In fact, the rise of attacks to fundamental rights in countries within the European Union does not make it easy for countries outside the Union to take it seriously and respect its standards. The Polish ban on abortion, or the agressive repression of migrants at the Hungarian frontier, are examples of EU values being challenged. Therefore, before taking a role of leadership in the area of fundamental rights, the EU should for sure clean up its own porch.

“The EU is not only about fiscality and economics” said Federica Mogherini. In fact, since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, the EU has considerably evolved. There was a need and the will to develop this economic partnership towards a more integrated unity, which has given birth to the European Union as we know it. We however should not forget that the EU is only what it was allowed to become by the member states. The EU therefore should not only be the one to blame when its efficiency reaches its limits. Member states have the biggest responsibility, they have the future of the EU within their hands. As Ms. Mogherini stated “No one is giving marks … , the EU is a voluntary family”. That is the reason why the growth of extremist parties and the constitution of euro-sceptic governments is so worrying. That is the reason why we need citizens to be informed, and citizens who are not afraid to express themselves, during elections but also on a day to day basis. Opinions needs to be challenged.

What are the next steps? Can we say the EU is a global actor? Being one of the largest economies, that is still growing at the moment you are reading this article, and giving a louder voice to smaller and bigger states on the international political stage, the EU can certainly be said to be an important actor. But is it a global actor? We can see through the Iran Deal, which was “facilitated by the EU” as explained Ms. Mogherini, and through its stand on fundamental rights and the environment, that the EU has an enormous potential as a global influencer. The Iran Deal still stands because the EU, and the international community has proclaimed its validity. The EU’s political power appease Iran and balance the rejection of the United States, clearly demonstrates the Union’s strength on the international stage. But then why does the Union have no power over the instability caused by the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States? Because there are several global actors in our shared society, each actors has its on cards to play and they are playing it (such as China with its road-belt initiative), the EU should do the same. Mr. Reynders proposed the idea of a seat for the EU within the Security Council, recognizing through this project that Belgium would have more power being one of the member states of the European Union than by requesting a seat for themselves. This trust in the EU is what it takes in order to transform the Union of today into the Union of tomorrow.

Our capacity to recognize the benefits, as well as the disadvantages, of the European Union, our capacity to take our own actions, to represent our own interests through one single voice, will determine the future of the Union. And do not forget,that each of us, has a role to play as the EU is and will always be what we decide it will be. Citizens: do not forget to vote at the next European elections and political leaders: be ambitious, realisitic and responsible.

Eloïse is a student in a double degree in French and English Law, with a specialization in European Law. She does not only believe in the European Union, she feels European after having lived in different countries; in France, Sweden and England. She is for critical thinking in order to promote constructive solutions. She is passionate about international relations, diplomacy and the study of cultural difference. 

Join global policymakers at the Y20 Summit 2018 in Argentina – Application deadline February 21

The Y20 Summit 2018 is taking place in the province of Cordoba, Argentina, from August 13-19 2018.

The Summit will address the theme “education for development” and will focus on three central pillars: sustainability, gender equality and fairness.

Application deadline: Wednesday February 21 23:59 CET.

For ore information and to apply, click here


Looking Back at COP23

This November, a group of six young leaders passionate about working for climate change solutions traveled from six different countries on three continents to Bonn, Germany for COP23, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. During our two weeks at the conference, we observed negotiations and plenaries, attended side events and talks, and even hosted an event of our own — a first for the YEL delegation to a COP! Now COP23 has ended, and the world is already looking towards COP24. The delegates are using this time to reflect on their experience in Bonn and answer two questions: what will they take away from this conference, and what are their next steps?

Casey Miller

As I look back on my two weeks at COP23, I feel two things — disappointment and hope. During the conference, the idea that nothing was moving fast enough was prevalent. There was a frustrating distance between side events with experts discussing the urgent need to ramp up ambition and the slow-moving negotiations. As our delegation spent every morning going over the previous day’s negotiations, the idea that some developed country was dragging its feet, slowing down progress in areas such as pre-2020 action and loss and damage happened so often that discussing it felt somewhat redundant. Looking at the results of this year’s conference, I wonder what else could have been achieved if all countries took scientists’ warnings to heart and negotiated towards stronger climate action like our lives depend on it — because they do.

Luckily, I didn’t leave the conference filled only with thoughts of disappointment and hopelessness. The people I’ve met during the conference, both in this delegation and as part of other organizations, have left me with one very hopeful thought — with so many passionate, intelligent and innovative people working towards solving some of the world’s greatest problems, I’m sure there’s still hope to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Even if you look solely within the YEL delegation to COP23, you’ll find many different types of people — entrepreneurs, activists, academics, development experts, and inventors — all working towards one common goal while utilizing their personal and unique expertise.

Now that I’m back home in Vienna, I’m taking some time to find ways to keep the passion and drive I feel with at the COP alive all year long. I’ve been inspired by the rest of my delegation to find out what the most pressing climate change issues we’re facing are and then work on innovative ways to fix them. Most importantly, I’m actively looking into events where young professionals get together to discuss inventive ways to solve these issues. Fellow delegate Shrina and I spent a lot of time during COP23 discussing what positive results could come out of groups of young professionals coming together to work towards a common goal. I’m looking forward to put those ideas into action.

Sian Evans

This was my first COP, and given my background in environmental management and current work on sustainable development, it was a real privilege for me to attend an event I’ve heard so much about. The volume of people and sheer energy at the event struck me – it really felt like a place where things were happening, and progress could be made. The presence of the US Climate Action Center, representing the many American leaders committed to upholding the Paris Agreement, demonstrated that while Trump may be u-turning on climate action, the rest of the world is moving ahead – with or without him. Although there is still so much to be done, with developing countries dragging their feet, and many key issues being kicked down the road to COP24, I still left Bonn feeling hopeful.

YEL delegates at COP23

When I returned to Jerusalem and got back to work and my daily life, COP23 suddenly felt very distant. Many of my friends and colleagues didn’t know what COP 23 was, let alone the issues being discussed there. Climate change is such a difficult issue to communicate, and it’s hard to engage people (including decision makers) with something that feels so distant, particularly in regions fraught with their own challenges. The UNFCCC process – with its acronyms, articles and terminology – does not make this any easier! One of my key takeaways is that more needs to be done to ensure that the energy I experienced at COP 23 translates to action on the ground, by engaging the communities, businesses and decision makers that aren’t at these events or a part of this process. I think that youth have a big role to play here, so I’m looking forward to continue to work on these issues and hopefully be in Poland in December 2018 for COP 24!

Katja Garson
COP23 was full-on, contradictory, baffling, inspiring. My six days inside the Bonn and Bula Zones were characterized by a consistent inconsistency: a buzz of activity; of interviews and listening; of moving from meeting to press conference to civil society action. This was the ‘technical COP’ of working out the details relating to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as the Fijian COP of openness and welcome. I bring away some thoughts on access and voices. Most people do not have the privilege of entering the COP space, many groups are underrepresented once there, and many were denied visas to attend. I took part in ‘Pass the Mic’, an action which provided a space for indigenous peoples to speak out. This should not have been necessary — all voices must have the same space and stage, always. COP is not only an international conference. It is an event which demonstrates the many inequalities and injustices of everyday life on Earth. It is a model, small-scale, of tensions, divisions, and, thankfully, of collaborations and celebrations.

Going forward, I will draw on the great energy which I gained from being surrounded by people working for environmental justice and sustainability around the world, especially the younger generation who will continue to be impacted by climate change. Although the policy outcomes of COP23 were less than impressive, with many of the details of the Paris rulebook still undecided, it is the raw determination and creativity of NGO and grassroots campaigners, researchers and activists which inspires me. The walkout from a White House press conference on ‘cleaner’ fossil fuels was a key moment of action which stated that ‘we, the people, reject your false claims.’ As the UK government prepares to leave the EU, I will work alongside friends at the UK Youth Climate Coalition to make people aware of the environmental implications of the government’s decisions. We will call for appropriate and binding legislation, and will support allies across borders. And I will continue to value connection, organizing and communication as tools for resistance and rebuilding.

Shrina Kurani
Take aways:
This year, COP23 took me on a ride. While updating my climate science, I simultaneously recognized the climate elite for the first time, which fed my continued frustration with the process, and led to me to my final takeaway: that I need to be brave. Last year I still held the perspective of a naive student and budding entrepreneur, in awe of meeting my climate heroes in the flesh. It took a year, and evolving into the critically optimistic perspective of an investor, to identify the inefficiencies and have my wonder fade into frustration. And I realized that the best thing I could do was to play to my strengths and be opportunistic. Landing YEL a press conference just took sending an email – and now thousands of people have heard our message. I’m so excited about that!

Next steps:
So now that COP is over and the excitement is approaching a normal state, I need to take my own advice. I need to have the courage to stand up for what I believe in, and then be open to convinced otherwise. Just as we need to emphasize adaptive climate policy, we also need to be adaptive in looking for best practices and working together as a community to move forward as a united front. There is strength in diverse perspectives, and strength in community – and that’s what I’m looking forward to continue building. My climate community!

Alexander Pfeiffer

My main take-away is that hope is not lost yet. Attending COP 22 in Marrakech last year and witnessing the Trump election was a pretty discouraging experience and following his climate policies since then did not improve my mood and attitude. Being at COP 23, however, proved that there are still many Americans and, perhaps more importantly, American leaders out there that will uphold the U.S.’ contribution to the Paris Agreement. Trump clearly does not speak for the majority of mankind — in fact, not even the majority of U.S. citizens — and will therefore fail to block climate progress. This COP has clearly showed this!

Going forward I think much more needs to be done. While the parties are fleshing out the rule book to figure out how the Paris Agreement can be implemented global emissions have risen again by 2-3% in 2017 and are expected to continue to rise. At the same time coral reefs die, wildfires destroy California, Africa still suffers from a multi-year drought and extreme weather events wreck havoc in many parts of the world. Overall our planet sends us clear signals that we are running out of time. I think over the next 2 years it will be important to push for a lot of pre-2020 action and especially avoid further lock-in by building even more dirty infrastructure.

As a German I will do my best to push for a clear statement of the German government by which year they will have exited the dirty coal-fired power generation (#exitCoal). I believe such a statement must be communicated before the next COP in Poland in 2018 if Germany wants to continue to be a leader in the climate effort. Being the organisational host of this COP it was cringeworthy to witness the disgraceful failure of Germany, represented by Steinmeier and Merkel, to showcase good climate leadership.

Lastly it was great to meet so many old friends again. I didn’t realise it but after now three COPs I already know many people in this realm and it was great to see many of them again (including three quarter of my delegation). I hope to be able to stay part of this delegation and effort.

COP 23 Day 12: Young European Leadership: Millennials, Accepting the Challenge. Braver, Further, Faster.

By Shrina Kurani

These past two weeks have been the ultimate convening of experts and the people in a position of power to put that expert knowledge to work. But today, the Young European Leadership had its first Press Conference at COP23! After two weeks at COP23, we gave an update on what we learned, and rallied our generation to accept the challenge and have the courage to stand up to how things have always been done – and accept failure.

It’s this risky propensity for failure that allows a new generation of climate entrepreneurs to test the limits of every assumption. Climate change at its core is about tipping points – limits to our current condition and the assumptions that come with it. While climate science continues to quantify and assess these limits, solutions continue to operate in the current paradigm of “this is how it’s always been done”. In battling a progressive issue, scientists are conservative in how they problem-solve, and how they communicate. And this is how climate entrepreneurship can take up the mantle – the world around us is not made up of changemakers that were the first to solve a problem for society. They didn’t open the doors to those solutions, but they did close the door behind them. In the world we live in now, accelerating towards injustice, the doors are all open. We’ve been trying so many different solutions, from negative emissions to nature-based, and we need to keep trying – and not be afraid to fail, to change how things have always been done. Because how it’s always been done has gotten us to where we are now – and where we are now is not where we want to be.

YEL delegates to COP23 speak at a Young European Leadership press conference

As YEL has attended COPs since COP21, we aim to increase the impact of YEL going forward. We’re eager to join forces with other organizations from all sectors to work together to discuss solutions that not only Europe, but the entire world faces. As we look towards COP24 and beyond, we ask ourselves and other groups with similar missions, what can we do to be better and make this strong impact?

Climate sociologists and historians wrote a book from the perspective of year 2400, about how we failed. What we need is a perspective from year 2050 that narrates how we succeeded – and the scary future we narrowly avoided. There is a major disconnect in how we communicate climate science, and the juxtaposition is apparent at COP23. It is a convening of the greatest minds with the intention to save the world. They do great work and research, and they’re the world’s climate idols. But they’ve been negotiating for 23 years since the first COP. And in the past 23 years, their work hasn’t quite cut it. Because what it takes, at this point, is to be courageous. Courage to stand up to how things have always been done, courage to take action despite uncertainty. And what we, as Millennials, bring is that courage. This year, the theme of COP23 is “Further, Faster, Together”. Our theme is “Braver, Further, Faster”. Because when you’re all dead, we’re going to have to deal with this.

Shrina Kurani is an impact investor based in San Francisco, supporting entrepreneurs tackling big problems.

Working Towards a Positive Change by Fighting Negativity with Quality

How the Digital Communications Workgroup on the Digital and Communications Affairs Council is Tackling Fake News

By Claudia Scandol

The main focus of one of the workgroups at this year’s Young European Council in the Digital and Communications Affairs Council was fake news and digital communications. This topic has been extremely salient of late in policy making circles due to the potential impact it has on the wider European populace and our delegates were excited to investigate the policy options and current actions. During a meeting with the carefully selected council advisers Mr. Joran Frik, Mr. Joe McNamee and Ms. Iva Tasheva, the delegates were able to get valuable feedback about their policies thus far, discuss further ideas and ask questions to experienced experts in the field.

The workgroup developed a policy draft in order to counter fake news where they focus on rewarding legitimate news sources as opposed to punishing and banning fake news sources. Team representative Catarina Burstoff was presenting the policy and emphasised one of the most important factors in this matter, being the people’s perception of fake news as real. The workgroup, led by Magdalena Surowiec from Poland, proposed a certificate based system whereby honourable journalists are given a sort of rating to indicate the reliability of their news sources. They proposed that the ratings should be given by an EU level expert group with as much independence as possible, and national and local scholars in order to overcome language barriers in smaller member states. The workgroup also suggested the utilisation of celebrities and media personalities in an influence campaign due their exposure and following to combat questionable sources.

When these proposals were presented to the expert advisers, they had many compliments and suggestions to give to the delegates which have helped to improve and streamline their work. Mr. Joe McNamee emphasised two of the major factors that influence the perpetuation of fake news – the prominence of “clicks” on bad news as opposed to good news and the speed at which fake news spreads and is believed by people.  Mr. Joran Frik added to McNamee’s thoughts on the propensity of and dissemination of negative and inflammatory headlines. On the other hand, Ms. Iva Tasheva focused her comments on the importance of education of the populace. The special advisers were also able to give some valuable criticism, which for delegate Antonio Božić from Croatia only helped to increase the validity and quality of their work. He sees their policy as not only realistic, but also feasible if they can take the adviser’s considerations into account.

Mr. Božić also shared the disagreements and challenges that his team faced when developing their policy, such as discussions on how to best address the problem (through a punishment of fake news sources versus promotion of legitimate sources) and how to best implement their grading system – how is it granted? Who is in charge? Ms. Tasheva also took this chance to advise caution on certificates as a policy solution – who polices the police? The delegates need to address this in order to create trust in the public, something which is vital to the issue of fake news. They decided to focus on promoting positive new sources as opposed to attempting to blacklist and ban fake news sources, as they are too easy to replicate. Instead, they want to public to engage with trustworthy and credible sources.

The team presented their final communiqué with the rest of the Digital and Communications Affairs Council on Thursday morning.

Youth and internships: Why it is now time to move away from them

By Frida Hoffmann at YEC17

During the negotiations at the Labour Affairs Council of the Young European Council 2017, the issue of unpaid internships surfaced and became one of the leading motives of the Council.

We are in the age when sacrificing time to have valuable experience is the only way to get a well-paid job. I know it, you know it and the delegates know it. One negotiation after the other the participants gradually got into a sequence of heated debates on alternative solutions and possible outcomes. The working groups presented a Framework Agreement that defines trainees and interns as two separate entities both entitled of  “monetary salary or in kind”.

The problem is, as flagged by Max Uebe (who is the Head of Unit “Employment Strategy” in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) that these issues have to first be resolved on the domestic level of each member state.

The European Union has no power to enact binding legislation based on Article 153(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Any regulation regarding pay is strictly in the realm of the member states. Consequently, only non-binding forms of EU action is available that enables the needed cooperation and communication. However, this still does not place enough pressure on the Member State, but only removes the latter from the Commission. An empty promise that never will be implemented? Yes, most probably.

If the EU has no competence over what Member States are doing, they could at least address this by paying their interns. As it happens, an estimated half of the current EU internships are full-time and unpaid.

After witnessing the different proposals and their barriers, I came to the conclusion that the best solution would be to abolish internships once and for all. The whole phenomenon of internships is faulty and full of errors. The EU will not legislate on it because it cannot. The Member States have more pressing issues and they are under no legal obligation from the EU and employers are generally glad to have unpaid workforce. The real problem is that ensuring that internships are paid positions would not even solve the situation. While paid internships look wonderful from the intern’s point of view, it would be a major financial setback for the employer, and would eventually result in no internships at all. Something that would definitely not look promising for those student, who would like to try themselves in the professional environment.

Instead of having lengthy internships, a shorter (maximum 2 weeks) unpaid, but more intense “work experience” might be a solution. This would provide an opportunity for students to get insights on specific fields, and still be eligible to apply for a job that actually pays during the holiday season.

 My personal experience is that a week-long unpaid internship is not as burdensome financially as running on no salary for 3 months and living up non-existing savings from my student loan.

One would argue that the concept of a short “work experience” would not guarantee the opportunity to learn. On that point, I strongly believe that the goal of a work experience is not to gain extensive knowledge about a job position. It is for the students to gain an insight,  and decide whether they would like to get more involved and apply for a graduate role or not. Work experience is quite frankly for experience that can be manifested in a variety of ways. This would require more effort from the employer to shift the focus from coffee making activities to more exciting tasks, that focus on personal development and learning new skills in an alternative way.

The problem of unpaid internships and the painful fact that these positions are only open for students with very stable financial background is more extensive and complex than most of us think. Like every single EU employment topic, it is in fact just as fragile and specific as unemployment, working condition or social security for every Member State. Getting to the end of it would surely require bold and clear actions. Can we really expect it to be happening in the near future though?

Smart City Expo World Congress 2017 in Barcelona

‘Cities are essential to our survival as a species in the 21st century’ – this statement voiced by Robert Muggah at the Smart City Expo World Congress highlights the daunting challenges that policy-makers, experts and citizens are facing in transforming our cities into smart, sustainable, and inclusive urban habitats. The Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, as the world’s leading event for smart city projects in the context of urban development, provided a platform to debate these pressing questions. YEL delegates Natalia, Natasa, Ania and Philipp had the opportunity to listen to and engage with smart city and technology experts from all over the world between the 14th-16th of November in Barcelona. After three days of enriching debates and discussions at the conference, five main insights prevail:

COP23 Day 2

1. Interdependence: As the world is increasingly interconnected, there is a need for cities to act together across borders. Challenges such as climate change, air pollution, migration and questions of social hardships are most effectively addressed if cities work together and share their visions as well as best-practices.

2. Inclusion: Smart cities cannot be built without involving citizens in the process. Modern technologies allow us to connect different demographics within cities and empower previously less-privileged segments of our societies.

3. Leadership: Strong leadership is essential to make smart city projects work all around the globe. Many policy-makers and experts get preoccupied with technology, but they should rather focus on outcomes and act as role-models.

4. Technology: Technology provides the tools to make cities smarter, but needs to be incorporated into sound strategies. Emerging technologies such as the blockchain could radically alter the way we think about business transactions in the future and open-up entirely new use-cases in the field of urban governance.

5. Vision: Thinking about smart cities means thinking about complete holistic change. It is not enough for cities to simply procure and apply digital technologies, but rather about crafting a new paradigm of how we want to live in our cities in the future. We need to envision our cities in a different manner if we truly want to make them smart.

COP23 Day 2

In addition, the trade fair that formed part of the event allowed to explore the newest technologies and smart applications that stand behind the transformation of our cities. From industry leaders that offer intelligent air traffic management systems to a start-up that allows pet owners to ‘park their dog’ and supervise via app – many companies, cities and institutions exhibited their innovative solutions that constitute the technological basis for smart cities. Altogether, the YEL delegates agreed that it is encouraging to see how the topic of smart cities is increasingly gaining traction. As the potential of applying smart technologies in our cities is receiving more political attention globally, it is imperative for young people to shape the agenda on the future of our cities. The YEL delegation in 2018 will hopefully continue on this path.

10th Anniversary of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize

Young European Leadership joins the European Parliament in the planning and organization of the 10th Anniversary of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize!

Young European Leadership became part of the official organising committee of the 10th Anniversary of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize – and is co-organising, along with the European Parliament, the 10th Anniversary of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize, taking place in Brussels on 21-23 November 2017.


The event brings together the leading European youth projects of the last ten years and showcases the central focus of youth in the activities of the European Parliament alongside the European Charlemagne Youth Prize as a visionary and important platform for the European integration.

Stay tuned for more news regarding the preparations of the events.

More details are available at here.

COP23: What is it, who’s involved, and what does it mean for climate change?

Authors: Shrina Kurani, Katja Garson

cop23 logo.jpg

We know you have lots of questions about COP, and specifically COP23. Let’s dive in:

Let’s get the letters out of the way. What does ‘COP’ mean?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. These conferences are held each year in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UNFCCC COPs serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties (or countries) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This year’s UNFCCC COP takes place from November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.

Tell me about the UNFCCC.

The UNFCCC began in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio, when countries joined the framework as a way of working together internationally to tackle climate change. It entered into force in 1994. There are now 197 parties (or countries) within the UNFCCC framework. The UNFCCC hopes to combat climate change by limiting the rise in global temperatures through action taken on international and national levels.

How many COPs have there been, and what have been the results of previous COPs?

  • COPs began, logically, from number 1. The first UN Climate Change Conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. So COP23 will be the twenty-third.

  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 in 1997, and entered into force in 2005. This Protocol is important because it sets binding emissions reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries. It has a principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, which means that every country is responsible for reducing emissions, but developed countries need to do more than others because of their larger relative contribution to climate change.

  • COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 was a failure from the policy-making perspective.  There was a lot of talking, but hardly any listening, and the conference culminated in the rushed drawing-up of the Copenhagen Accord by a small group of countries behind closed doors. This Accord was not legally binding, did not legally require anyone to do anything, and did not take the views of all parties into account.

However, when you fall low there’s always room for improvement:

  • Since 2011 the meetings have been used to negotiate the Paris Agreement as part of the Durban platform activities, which created a path towards climate action.

  • COP21 in Paris saw the formation of the historic Paris Agreement. This entered into force on November 4th 2016. The Agreement brings all countries together to work on keeping temperature rise during this century below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement requires ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) from each country. These include regular reporting on the actions they’re taking.

What is special about this year’s UNFCCC COP?

With Fiji holding the presidency, it will be the first time that a Small Island Developing State has taken on this role. This is highly symbolic in a time when rising sea levels and a lack of resources/financial support threaten such nations, and will hopefully spur action which takes small nations’ needs into account..

Why is COP23 being held in Germany if Fiji has the presidency?

The presidency rotates between the five regional groups of the UN. This time it’s Asia-Pacific states’ turn, and Fiji was nominated. However, as a small island nation, Fiji quite simply does not have the space nor the facilities to host such a major conference.

Bonn is seen as the UNFCCC’s base. It is home to 19 UN agencies, more than 150 international organisations, and is the ‘seat’ of the UNFCCC secretariat.

How many countries attend COP?

At each COP there are representatives from the five recognized UN regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe and Others. There are currently 196 Parties to the UNFCCC – in other words, 196 countries which can and do attend COP.

Who can go to COP?

Anyone can go if they have accreditation, the official documentation which allows you to enter the venue. It’s easiest to get accreditation if you attend with a delegation (an official group with a purpose which makes COP meaningful to them). The delegation lead will then be able to acquire accreditation for each of their delegates. Groups can include NGOs, youth groups, academic institutions, special interest groups, businesses, and, of course, governments.

Do young people get to attend?

Yes, young people can attend COP as long as they have accreditation. YEL is an example of a youth delegation, and there are many other youth delegations from around the world.

Furthermore, the Conference of Youth (COY), which takes place before each COP, is a space open to any young person who would like to attend either as an organisational representative, or as an individual. This is a great way to discuss and learn about environmental issues even if you’re not attending COP.

How long does COP last and what is the significance of each day?

COP lasts for two weeks, and this year it takes place from November 6-17.

Often, days are allocated a theme, for example the ‘indigenous peoples day’ or the ‘forests day’, to help organize the multiple side events on various topics which are hosted by different organizations and governments.

However, the negotiations still continue at their own pace and according to a pre-arranged negotiation schedule. It is not unusual for negotiations to take a very long time, and to overrun the original schedule. Negotiators frequently work into the night to agree on details in the last couple of days.

What is the conference space like?

COPs are generally held in large venues composed of a  series of rooms, public areas, and larger negotiating spaces. The space is split into two zones, one zone being where negotiation takes place, and the other being more openly accessible. This year the Bonn conference is divided between the Bula zone and the Bonn zone. The Bula zone will house the negotiating spaces and delegation offices, and the Bonn zone will house side events, exhibits, and media activities. The two zones will be connected by a corridor for easy transit. You still need accreditation in order to access either of these spaces.

What does COP23 hope to achieve?

This year there is an emphasis on collaboration and cooperation. COP23 President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has called for the voices of those who are most vulnerable, including those from small nation states, to be heard, and for the resilience of these nations to be increased. He has also stated that he hopes that non-state actors can become more closely involved.

COP23 aims to advance work on the Paris Agreement, for example by pushing for technologies which will enable future economies to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by accelerating collaborative action between all levels of society and organisational bodies.

What are the main barriers to achieving those goals?

A key challenge is, quite simply, trying to find solutions that all parties are happy with. As in Copenhagen, tension between developed and developing countries persists, with developing countries often claiming that the richer, more developed countries are not doing enough to pull their weight.

Although the ratification and entry into force of the Paris Agreement was a hard-earned achievement, making sure that all countries are able to implement it will be much trickier. The extent to which countries are able to or willing take action is shaped by political and cultural contexts. Those contexts vary wildly around the globe, so trying to find national solutions which fit into the wider international picture is a significant challenge

This year, we’ll see states continuing to work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement without the United States. That’s one major international player which will no longer be pulling its weight in tackling climate change… yet a player which is still sending delegates to COP23.

What are some criticisms of COP as a decision-making and meeting space?

There have been issues with accessibility of COPs, for example for civil society from the Global South, who are often underrepresented in policy spaces. The fact that you can not take park in a COP without accreditation can be an issue for many people who are only just starting out in the climate change field. Furthermore, in some of the past meetings it has been all too easy for developed countries to drown out the voices of developing nations. This was especially the case at COP15, and continues to be a risk each year.

How about the positives?

COP is unique in being the largest international conference on climate change. People who are highly skilled and expert in many aspects of climate change come together, as well as those with little experience but are there to learn and absorb new information. Civil society gets an important opportunity to challenge leaders on their commitments, and often-sidelined indigenous, Global South, developing country and youth groups are able to take a stand under the media spotlight and in front of leaders, in order to make their views heard. As such this is a moment for the sharing of ideas, building of connections, and, hopefully, the creation of concrete, just, and ambitious policy.

How can someone who can’t attend COP find out more and stay up to date?

You should follow YEL online! We will be creating a variety of outputs, including articles, opinion pieces and videos. Take a look at our Twitter channel for live updates.