COP20 – What, Why, How?

It has been already several weeks now since we have start planning our stay in Lima, Peru, for the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20), the biggest annual United Nations meetings on climate change. From December 1st to December 12th, a delegation of 4 members representing IFMSA will be on the ground working hard to ensure health and climate change are discuss hands in hands. We will be using this blog to engage with you and to daily update you about our work and thoughts. But why not before we all leave to Peru, a short entry about the Whats, Whys, and Hows of COP?

What is COP?
The Conferences of Parties (COP) are the decision-making body of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This intergovernmental process has been operating since 1994, and serves as the international forum for negotiations and discussions on global action to combat climate change. They are held once a year, and they bring together tens of thousands of key stakeholders from member states, civil society, groups and intergovernmental agencies from all over the world.

What makes COP20 so important?
The world is preparing for COP21 in Paris in December 2015, hoping to by then, have a global binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 to onward – a thing previous COPs have failed to achieve. COP20 will be particularly important because it will pave the way to Paris. The negotiation text of Paris will be drafted in Lima this year; and we will be hearing about what the countries are ready to commit to. Recent declarations from the United States, China and the European Union will particularly echo in Lima.

Why do we send medical students to a conference on climate change?
Climate change is said to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. But it is also the biggest opportunity to improve health of billions around the world. IFMSA believes that medical students must be involved in the discussions to ensure health is not left aside negotiations. As the doctors of tomorrow, it is our hope to see our patients as healthy as possible and to keep them outside the hospitals for as long as we can; and this has to be linked to environmental and social determinants of health. Protecting the environment, reducing air pollution, adopting mitigation policies, are public health measures.

What will IFMSA be doing?
The delegation has been working hard in the past few weeks to prepare for this COP. We had several online meetings to discuss our strategy, and we have organized a very successful hangout session this past Sunday to get more input from IFMSA members. Here’s a brief overview of what we will be doing in the next two weeks:

  • Participate in the 10th Conference of Youth (COY10) to connect with other youth organizations;
  • Give a 2-hours workshop on climate and health during COY10;
  • Work with YOUNGO, the umbrella organization representing the youth voices in the UNFCCC negotiations;
  • Collaborate with the World Health Organization to make sure health stays on the climate health agenda;
  • Attend the Climate and Health Summit, organized by the Global Climate and Health Alliance;
  • Promote IFMSA points of view on climate change and health through advocacy and lobby;
  • Contribute to many publications and blogs such as Outreach, and here on IFMSA Blog;
  • Make sure we make our voices heard using social media, such as Twitter;
  • Track the negotiations process and report back;
  • And much more!

Our 3 keys messages
We will be asking policy makers to help us build:

  1. A world in which strategies to achieve rapid and sustained emissions reductions are implemented today to protect our health.
  2. A world in which climate change policies are seen as an opportunity to improve health of populations worldwide.
  3. A world in which youth, as part of the solution, are involved in policy-making for sustainable, resilient and healthy societies.

How can you get involved?
There will be only four of us on the ground in Lima, and we will need your support and engagement to make sure we are well heard. We have set-up a Google Group for internal communications (join us!). We will also try to blog daily to update you about the process, and we would appreciate if you could share the information in your network. If you are a twitter fan, please consider using #climatehealth and #COP20, and tagging @ifmsa in your tweets. You can also retweet us as much as you want. We also have a very active Facebook Group (join us!) which is used to share articles, news, updates, etc. You might also wish to submit your climate selfie, and explaining why as a young health professionals, you find climate change important. You can also organize events at your university to make sure your colleagues and friends are well informed about climate change and health: ask a teach, plan a movie-debate night, start a group discussion, have a kiosk during lunch time, etc. The ideas are infinite and are yours to make it happen!

We invite you to email us at vpe@ifmsa.org may you have any questions; or if you are interested in being more involved.

Until next time,

Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA VPE)
On behalf of IFMSA Delegation to COP20
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