Personal Reflections from the Bonn Climate Change Conference 2023 

by Nikola Baumschlager and Chanel Ng

ClimaTalkers in Bonn; left to right: Christy Wong, Luisa Schmatz, Chanel Ng, Nikola Baumschlager 

Nikola and Chanel attended the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB58) for ClimaTalk, and in collaboration with the Youth Negotiators Academy, in June 2023. Now they are sharing some personal reflections from the conference. 

Nikola’s Reflections

The vibrant city of Bonn hosted SB58 in June, a dynamic assembly of young climate activists and negotiators, united by a shared purpose to address our planet’s most pressing challenges. From Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea for a rapid fossil fuel phase-out to eye-opening discussions about our food choices.

Greta Thunberg’s resounding words echoed through the conference halls: “It will be impossible for us to stick to the 1.5-degree limit without a rapid equitable fossil fuel phase-out”. The essence of her message crystallised the gravity of our situation – our actions today determine the trajectory of future generations. Collaborating with the Youth Negotiators Academy, ClimaTalk amplified this call to action, underscoring the disproportionate burden that climate change places on those least responsible.

In an ironic twist, beef was served at the heart of the climate conference, highlighting the paradox of discussing sustainability while indulging in environmentally taxing choices. The conference spotlighted a critical blind spot – our food system’s impact on climate change. Despite the emphasis on fossil fuels, the broader conversation around food and agriculture remained muted. Our dietary decisions play a pivotal role in greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and soil degradation.

As we approach #COP28, it is vital that we broaden our focus, acknowledging the intertwined relationship between fossil fuel reduction and food system transformation.As the curtains closed on #SB58, a resounding message reverberated – the time for action is now. The experiences in Bonn ignited a fire of determination, inspiring us to heed Greta Thunberg’s call for a fossil fuel phase-out and simultaneously address the impact of our dietary choices. The road ahead is clear: by integrating these twin imperatives into our climate discourse, we pave the way for a future that is not only ecologically resilient but also socially just. Our actions today indeed shape the destiny of humanity, making it our collective responsibility to lead the way towards a more sustainable tomorrow.

Chanel’s Reflections: 

As the world eagerly anticipates COP28, the city of Bonn played host to the 58th session of the UNFCCC’s two permanent subsidiary bodies, SBSTA and SBI, during the initial weeks of June 2023. Known as SB58, this conference provides the golden opportunity for negotiators, policymakers, activists, and advocates to set the stage for the crucial decisions awaiting at COP28. Representing ClimaTalk, my role at SB58 encompassed three primary roles: (1) aiding the Youth Negotiators Academy Team with communication tasks, (2) observing negotiations related to the loss and damage agenda, and (3) interviewing youths in the climate scene.

SB58 marked not only my inaugural pre-COP experience but also my first international climate conference. Needless to say, the imposter syndrome and nerves kicked in as soon as I landed in Germany. However, I was immediately taken in by the team and people of the Youth Negotiators Academy like family, and it didn’t take long for me to immerse myself into the dynamics of the team – shoutout to Ceci for being the most helpful over the two weeks!

As I acclimated to the daily whirlwind of events, the initial feelings of being overwhelmed and out of my depth gradually gave way to pure excitement. In addition to my assigned tasks, I relished the daily opportunities to cross paths with and occasionally converse with inspiring figures in the field. One of my most cherished moments was sharing an elevator ride and a conversation with Nabeel Munir, the SBI chair, a day after he humorously likened negotiators to “primary school” children due to their failure to agree on the starting agenda for talks.

Each day at SB58 was an adventure in itself, making it challenging to pinpoint a single highlight. However, if I were pressed to choose one, it would undoubtedly be my spontaneous participation in a climate protest during the second week of the conference. Little did I know that my quest for free vegan hot dogs would lead me to join a protest led by youth activists like Greta Thunberg and Patience Nabukalu, protesting Deutsche Bank’s funding of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Learning the chants and songs along the way definitely sealed the experience to be one of my favourites!

Two weeks passed in the blink of an eye. While the outcomes of SB58 may not have been all we hoped for, I depart from the conference with an overwhelming sense of joy, gratitude, and newfound knowledge. Witnessing negotiations unfold before my eyes, forming beautiful friendships with like-minded youth in the climate movement, and having this incredible opportunity made SB58 an unforgettable experience. It was an honour to be part of this global effort to combat climate change, and I look forward to continuing this journey toward a better future.

Categories COP28

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