“We understand the value of water as an essential liquid for life. This is why we’re working hard to care for it, to care for our mountains and to protect it as part of our culture. We need a united voice telling this to governments so that when we fight climate change, we also protect water”.

My voice rang in the microphone as I said these words, but they were not my own.  I was translating the words of Fabiola Quishpe, a grassroots activist and community representative from the tiny village of Apahua in Ecuador. 

Fabiola was addressing the panel speakers at IIED’s development and climate days’ session on water, mountains and climate change.  It’s a topic she is familiar with, having lived in Apahua, a village located at 4,000m above sea level, her whole life.  When it comes to mountains, and water, Fabiola knows where its at.

Helping Fabiola speak at negotiations that would otherwise have silenced her due to language barriers is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in the past few months.  Seeing the smile spread across her face as I spoke her words to negotiatiors left me feeling like I’d really created a moment – for both Fabiola and myself.

Perhaps this emotional elation is due to the extreme sleep deprived state I’m already in, and the negotiations haven’t even begun yet!  A 22-hour train journey from London (with the inevitable delays) that involved sharing a couchette compartment with 3 competitor’s for World Snoring Champion mean I arrived exhausted and dishevelled in the city this morning.

However my fatigue vanished when I was finally able to arrive at the Bella Centre and see first hand the gigantic spectacle that is COP15.  Passionate vegetarians greet you at the tube station, and activists in polar bear costumes roam the hallways.  Delegates, identified by their pink badges run around looking harried, and I’m left with the same impression I always have when entering these negotiations: how on earth is all of this going to result in a meaningful deal that will slow climate change?

It’s a question I hope to answer in the next few days once I get my feet under me and after a shower and a nice night’s sleep. Until then, those wanting an up to the minute update on the negotiations should watch adopt-a-negotiator’s twitter.

- Brie O'Keefe


No wonder it didn’t reach a satisfactory conclusion. COP15 appears to have been a very expensive, carbon-intensive, elaborately-staged spectacle. Authentic negotiation was for the most-part replaced with the appearance of negotiation.

The presence of southern community representatives like Fabiola raised much-needed awareness of the first impacts of climate change. Leaders' presence told their citizens they were trying...

But do they really all have to be in the same place at the same time? There must be a better way to make globally democratic decisions.

Clare Jeffery
Progressio contributor