COP19 began auspiciously enough today, November 11, as it opened on the same day as Poland celebrated its independence. I don't know if that will rub off on the COP country delegates enough to let them move heaven and earth, as typhoon Haiyan had shown how, and craft a much-awaited, much needed and long overdue set of agreements that will declare humanity's independence from future climatic uncertainty. If that is too much to ask, I'd settle for an agreement that may bring tears of joy to Naderev Saño, or Yeb's eyes. While I'm at it, no matter how dismal the likelihood, I hope we do have an agreement that would make Yeb finally eat way before COP19 ends. Even further, may COP19 be truly auspicious that there are no more deaths, the missing are found, relief efforts are successful, hope restored and Filipinos become even more resilient by being prepared to face such a disaster. Extending that even more, I hope that we all come out of COP19 for the better.

On another note, what is it with Warsaw and solidarity? In the 1980s, it was here that Lech Walesa formed the Solidarity Party that challenged the ruling communist party. Thus, it is a welcome turn of events that as COP19 enters its second day, Yeb's decision to fast has drawn solidarity from all over. Youth delegates from the US in attendance here will also be fasting. An action was held at the food court of the National Stadium to highlight the effort. Significantly, my own classmates from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies plan to stage a similar symbolic effort. Meanwhile, in so many fronts in the Philippines and abroad, calls for volunteering time, money and other resources have multiplied and many have answered the call.

People have been mobilized to help in the relief effort. International organizations such as Medicins Sans Fronteres have come to provide needed medical assistance. Countries, too, have come to the aid of the Philippines. Vietnam, where typhoon Haiyan headed, had made the humongous effort to assist its ASEAN neighbor. Suddenly, the world’s attention is transfixed on the withered state of the provinces hit by typhoon Haiyan.

Meanwhile, here at COP19, the work that is the climate negotiations continues to beckon, for better or worse. Schedules and agendas for the different groups, blocs and countries have been laid out. Plenary sessions on myriad climate related matters were held throughout the day.

Consultations with non-government organizations and other stakeholders on the text of the draft agreements likewise transpired. In the coming days, the tedious and snail-paced task of debating provisions, as well as the many other side events will also be held. No doubt, parties will engage in side talks hoping to gain an advantage somewhere, somehow. However, in the end, this COP, like the many other COPs before and after it, will be measured by something fundamental, the negotiations output that will have been churned out. The bottom line will be whether the parties who participated here will have found the results to their satisfaction. Whether their country’s, bloc’s or organization’s interests have been preserved. And, yes, where Yeb is concerned, whether he has stopped his fasting.


Rex Barrer is a volunteer and a former staff of Greenpeace Philippines. He is currently representing not only the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University but also serving as an adviser for the Philippines.