By: Sarah Kozal

“For students, much of the excitement of attending the COP as part of a country’s delegation comes from the opportunity to sit in multi-party negotiations. But when nearly the entire second week in Paris turned into bilateral negotiations, a break from the crazy schedule of article-focused meetings gave us a chance to explore the multitude of side events hosted by delegations, NGOs, and private industry. Hashing out the specifics of the text is of course important, but with INDCs guiding the actual implementation of emissions reductions and adaptation measures, it was at these side events where the most interesting information was shared. It’s an incredible experience as a student to not only be surrounded by experts from around the world but also to have the opportunity to interact with them one-on-one. These events are a unique supplement to in-classroom learning in that they’re often hosted by those creating the laws and policies we learn about or by those reacting to policies in the private sector.

One area of particular interest to me was the intersection of energy policy and developing countries. In negotiating rooms, this and related issues were often tabled as being too “cross-cutting” and thus inappropriately addressed only in terms of mitigation, or loss and damage, or any other single article topic. Indeed, one of the struggles of the negotiations came from states unable to discuss the agreement as a whole, because topics were initially siloed. Side events, by contrast, allow for crosscutting issues to be examined as a whole and are the best place for students to make connections between policy strategies and projects already being implemented.”

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