Beatrice: Do the COP24 and its attendees walk the talk in their sustainability efforts?

Hi! I’m Beatrice, currently a first year student at Yale-NUS College. I became really aware of the severity of global issues surrounding sustainability and climate change in march of this year, when I chaired for a Model United Nations conference. As a chair for the economic-social committee, I had to complete a research report and become somewhat “specialised” in the question of promoting the Sustainable Development Goals among the youth. I understood then that to meet the SDGs by 2030, there had to be a unified and global response from all actors, both state and non-state actors because all SDGs are interconnected and interdependent. This meant that both public and private sectors had to cooperate, governments had to adopt sustainability policies and set regulations, businesses and stakeholders had to limit their impacts on the environment, and common people like you and me had to be more conscious consumers and live more sustainably in order to reduce our global footprint. I decided to create an Instagram account (@Green_Eyed_Peaz) over the summer to do more research on how one could live more sustainably, offering tips to other conscious consumers and zero-waste fanatics, all while raising awareness. I could call myself a passionate environmentalist in the process of learning.

The COP24 will finalise the Paris Agreement by implementing the guidelines to turn this ambitious agreement into reality and push for the must needed climate action. The delegates and attendees from around the world are informed about what is at stake and what needs to be done. In fact, the IPCC report warned us that we are running out of time and should implement effective measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. So people that are aware of these problems must also know that each individual is part of the problem. How sustainable are the attendees’ lives and do they realize the impact they have? How sustainable is the conference in terms of energy, carbon neutrality, and food and resource waste? What example is this COP24 setting for the people watching?

As individuals, our consumerist lifestyle and daily demands contribute to climate change. The trio of largest greenhouse-gas-emitting categories are indeed electricity, transportation, and food and agriculture. Despite being aware of the facts, some are in denial, or think that taking small initiatives is useless. Refusing single-use plastics for example is a simple initiative that some environmentalists advocate for. However some still prefer what is easy and offers comfort, over what is right for the environment. I plan on investigating what sort of lifestyles the people who come to the conference have by interviewing a range of different people and observing the COP’s organisation. Are they walking the talk? Or are we all hypocritically talking about protecting the environment while (maybe unconsciously) contributing to its destruction through the way we live.

The question is, are we putting our ideals into practice? The fact that most of us traveled by plane to come to this COP24 is already ironic. The UN and these international conferences focus on global scale solutions to macro challenges, but the micro level of things should also be tackled. The side-events I will attend are focused on mitigation strategies. I will analyse what large-scale solutions are being proposed and whether or not the issue of individual behaviors is being brought up. Our current way of life is not sustainable and solely relies of fossil fuels. Experts have agreed that our living patterns and consumerist tendencies would have to radically change. But are we ready for that? How much of our comfort are we willing to give up? This is also what I will be asking people throughout the conference. I’m looking forward to fruitful discussions, eye-opening events, and of course hope that the COP’s outcomes will only be successful.


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