The Conference of the Parties are built on multiple levels: there are not only the negotiations, but many other discussions and events going on around the venue...
On top of all the official negotiation where each nation participating in the United Nations is represented by an official delegation. The delegates meet with the ones of other nations to discuss international agreements on how to fight climate change. These meetings are mostly closed to the public so as an observer it is very hard to take part in them.
But that is not all that happens at COPs: outside the negotiation rooms there are huge hauls of activities going on where everything moves frenetically!
Each nation participating can have it’s own pavillon where to introduce it’s progress, showcase new projects and ideas, or to highlight how climate change is impacting them. These pavillon usually have a small area dedicated to daily meetings. Here you can both interact with representatives of each nation or take part into the discussion during talks or workshops.
Walking through the pavillon gives the chance for the “observers” to meet and talk to people from all around the globe. As a member of the Swiss Youth for Climate delegation and as representative of young people at the COP this is the perfect eye opening situation where to realize how huge and wide our impact on the environment actually is. The importance of the pavillons is to keep the discussion open and to remind everyone that the climate crisis is something that affects us all in different ways.
Pavillons aside, another big part of the COP outside the negotiations room are official conferences organized from both the United Nations and the nations itselves.
There are so many events going on that one usually ends up trying to find a way to be in five different locations at the same time. Conferences cover any possible aspect related to climate: water sources, ocean pollution, rise of temperature, CO2 mitigation, food supply, finance, and so on. Not only as talks but also as round tables where multiple actors discuss topics under different points of views.
One usually comes back from a COP with a wealth of knowledge that is beyond what one can read on papers.
Even if usually negotiations move very slowly and it is hard to see progress, COPs lived from the eye of an observer are probably one of the most thrilling events one can take part in.