Well this is exciting! Girl Swoonery is spreading worldwide! My good friend Anna Collins (herself a featured Girl Swoon) has been at the UN climate talks this week in Tianjin, China. She met the new executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres today and immediately christened her Girl Swoon #9. This post is cross-posted from Anna’s blog over on Adopt a Negotiator, a fantastic resource for anyone wanting an easy and understandable way of following the climate negotiations. Take it away Anna…
My friend Hanna has a great blog where she talks about all things climaty, crafty and feminist. As a regular feature she interviews girls who are doing amazing things and calls it girl swoon. This post goes out to her, with credit and thanks!
On the last day of UN climate negotiations it is rare to see the team grinning, laughing and optimistic. These talks have a way of beating that out of us over the course of a week, and this week definitely hasn’t provided us with much to smile about. We have seen stalling tactics being employed by many of the big players along with a vicious circle of blame for lack of progress. We have seen constant bickering and boring sessions, negotiations consumed by process, never getting to the substance.
However this morning anyone passing the tracker booth would have seen the team in high spirits, smiling and laughing (which to be fair even in the hardest times we normally manage to keep up). But also optimistic, optimistic that the unfccc can and will achieve something.
The reason for this optimism? My new girl swoon, Christiana Figueres, new executive secretary of the unfccc.
This morning the team had a meeting with Christiana. We went it to it with the usual set of questions: How’s it going? What can we expect? What can we do to push the process forward? And we were expecting the usual answers: Progress is slow, we can expect a balanced package, you guys need to go home and push your governments.
Instead what we were treated to was half an hour with one of the friendliest and most inspirational people I have met in this unfccc world. Christiana was frank and honest with us about the negotiations and where we are, however she was also optimistic and passionate. Most of all she spoke with feeling and emotion, something so often lacking from this process and yet something so desperately needed.
She made insightful comments about the lack of progress and yet was positive about getting somewhere. She believes that we are in a time of great transformation and is confident in the part the unfccc has to play in this. She mused on the importance of the placing of commas, understanding the issues (she used to be a negotiator for Costa Rica), yet also the great need for countries to work constructively within the process and the challenges in making this happen.
When asked about the best result we could achieve in Cancun (after joking that we get an agreement on the first day and spend the rest of the time on the beach), she was honest and yet optimistic. She believes we can achieve a package of decisions that put us on course to getting a legally binding deal. She reminded us that no country has come out and said they do not want a legally binding deal and that many are pushing this forward.
Her insights on the process were interesting and informative, however it was when she spoke about our role in all of this that she was most inspiring. She spoke not just about what we can do, but what we must. The duty of each and every one of us to live as we preach. The need to hold not just our leaders but also ourselves to account.
I’m not sure exactly why Christiana had more of an impact on the team than many of the other inspiring people we meet here, but I think one of the reasons for me was the way she acted. I have commented before that the UN process is dominated by old white guys in suits. So to have a woman from the global south at the top is quite a change. However so often when a woman gets to the top of a process like this it is because she has acted like a man, she has conformed to working in a white male way. This is not true of Christiana, she came across as a woman happy and confident to be in the role, assured of herself and her abilities. Not just her abilities to do the job, but her abilities to bring something new, something different, because she is a woman.
Her way of working seems to stand in stark contrast to the usual way of working in these rooms. Her way of working allows space for the people, for feelings, for passion, for emotion.
In Christiana I saw someone who understands what this process is really about and who isn’t afraid to show it. I can’t wait to see what having someone in charge who understands this could do to these negotiations.
So the tracker team are smiling today and Christiana is my new girl swoon. And this is why as another week of unfccc negotiations come to a close, even though things have not gone brilliantly here, I will leave Tianjin with a little bit of warmth, a little bit of hope, and a whole load of passion, as we continue to work for the amazing and beautiful future I know is out there.