Climate Voices

July 6, 2022
By: Mónica A. Flores-Hernández

The SB56 and how to keep hope when everything seems stuck

The SB56 and how to keep hope when everything seems stuck - Photo

The effects of climate change have been accompanying me since the beginning of my journey towards SB56.

I started traveling on June 1st, which is the first day of the hurricane season, and, like an omen of our possible future, it started with four canceled flights, three of them due to weather, and the possibility of a storm hitting Florida. This resulted in me being stuck for more than 30 hours in an airport with hundreds of people. What a way to put things in perspective, right?

I finally got to Germany on June 4th, so, luckily, I had one day to get some sleep before starting a very busy week. The one thing I was looking forward to the most was the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Dialogue and Workshops. As a person whose climate work is mostly done at the local level and closely related to education, access to information, and public participation, the opportunity to talk with other members of civil society and meet face to face with ACE focal points of different countries was precious to me.

The events went better than I expected, with ample space to exchange ideas and best practices and to hear first hand and in-person what other countries were doing. Some of them were closer to home, like the Dominican Republic and Chile, and some were further and way beyond what I imagined, like Austria and Saudi Arabia. It was refreshing to hear their thoughts, challenges and progress, and to share mine in a closer, less formal way.

I felt heard and understood.

Unfortunately and disappointingly, those enriching conversations stayed there, in the dialogues, as we didn’t see any of our inputs reflected in the SB56 negotiations. Two days, more than 10 hours of activities, exchanges and conversations, just to see nothing reflected, nothing at all. To say I was frustrated was an understatement.

Even worse was the fact that the second day of workshops almost didn’t happen as it was initially closed to observers. It took perseverance and more conversations with focal points for them to be open again. It was one of those small victories that restored my faith in what civil society can achieve together, while also confirming how vital it is for us to be there; demanding, witnessing, and holding accountable.

The same thing was happening in other negotiations as well. The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture closed its negotiations to observers and didn’t get to an agreement around the agroecology language, so it is not in the text. Gender discussions were also stuck and it just seems like we were getting blocked step after step in our way to real progress.

I found myself ending that week with a schedule that looked something like: protest > negotiations > short lunch > another protest > cross-constituency meeting > more protest > dinner? > team meeting… and just like that, it was 3am on the next day with another busy schedule ahead. Imagine the exhaustion.

After long negotiations that extended way into the second week, we are still with no agreed concrete activities to enact the Glasgow Work Programme and the language of human rights is still nowhere to be found.

As I’m writing this blog, we are entering a third week of water rationing in my hometown in Puerto Rico, which ironically is in the part of the island that receives the most rainfall. I was at the SB56 when I received the news through a family call. Now, there are conversations about this potentially being the worst drought since 2015, which sadly, was not that long ago and it’s making me realize that we’ve had almost a decade of extreme events one after the other with a little more than a year in between them. Puerto Ricans are living in a constant state of emergency that is rapidly eroding our collective wellbeing and our quality of life.

Because the reality is this: while there are countries with lots of space to relocate and lots of time to decide when and how to tackle climate change, there are other countries like mine who just don’t have that luxury. Climate change is real and is happening right now all around me, as I’m looking at the rainforest with no clouds and no rain.

At this point, maintaining hope is a necessity; it is fuel to keep us going and keep fighting. We have so much to lose and so little time that I just can’t afford to lose hope.

I can’t afford to stop the fight for my right to exist and to thrive on my island. And if that means going again and again to the international arena and protesting, opening negotiations and taking space, I’ll do it time and time again, until Parties of the UNFCCC start listening or there will no longer be a planet to fight for.

The best thing? I am not alone. I connected with so many people, especially young people, from all over the world, deeply committed to the work and the fight against climate change in their countries and beyond. I was impressed with all the initiatives and projects being done all over. And I know there’s more of us out there, demanding, organizing, fighting. That gives me hope.

COP27 is looking even more challenging than the last, as problems with visas, safety and accommodations are already arising and not being properly addressed. The path that lies ahead is rocky and difficult and I’m once again relying on hope and my unwavering faith in the power of civil society to pave a way forward. We still have the power.

Monica Flores-HernandezBorn in San Juan and raised on the banks of the Herrera River in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Mónica is completing her doctorate in Environmental Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her studies focus on Watershed Management from a socio-environmental perspective. She has worked on various research projects in different water bodies, as well as multiple community initiatives throughout the island. Founding member of Jovenes Socioambientales and part of Climate Trace PR, she’s committed to organizing communities and facilitating climate empowerment processes and environmental justice seeking efforts, as well as raising awareness on islanders’ issues in the international arena.