In December 2019, Peace Boat participated in the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the fifth consecutive year. More than 25,000 people from 200 countries attended the conference, designed to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process. The Madrid meeting was the last gathering of the COP group before 2020, when the Paris Agreement will come into effect.

This year’s conference was referred to as the “Blue COP,” to convey the close links between the health of the climate and the health of the ocean. More than 85 ocean related events were held, with December 6-7 particularly nominated as “Oceans Action Day”, bringing together United Nations delegates and civil society leaders working towards sustainable and healthy oceans. Peace Boat partnered with other non-profit organizations to co-host several side events and an exhibition focused on sustainable oceans, youth empowerment and innovative technologies.

On December 3, Peace Boat presented at a side event on ecological protection and renewable energy transition, co-organised with the All China Environment Federation. The panel included 5 speakers. First Yang Fuqiang, a Senior Adviser at China’s Program of The Natural Resources Defense Council, and He Jijang, from Tsinghua University spoke about the current state of Chinese investment in renewable energy, and China’s promotion of renewable energy transitions within the Belt Road Initiative. They stressed that “now in China, solar energy is becoming cheaper than coal”, and that there are enormous economic benefits to switching to renewables, but we need more financial institutions involved in order to make the transition happen.

For the second half of the event, Adriana Valenzuela from the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) and focal point for ACE – Action for Climate Empowerment introduced events focused on youth education at COP25. Peace Boat then presented our Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors programme for young leaders from small island states, as well as Peace Boat Ecoship, a transformational project to create a sustainable cruise vessel as the platform for our educational voyages.

The Young and Future Generations Day at COP 25 was held on December 5, where participants celebrated youth climate action through multiple activities including film screenings, discussions and inspiring events around the theme of oceans and climate. On this day, Peace Boat held a youth-focused event at the MOANA Blue Pacific Pavilion to highlight the testimonies of young people from Small Island Developing States on the frontlines of climate change, along with youth leaders from our nonprofit partners Global Kids and the Sustainable Ocean Alliance.

Genevieve Jiva, Pacific Island Climate Action Network Coordinator, shared her experiences as a Peace Boat Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador in 2018. “Stepping out onto the deck once we reached open ocean was an incredible experience, because the beauty of the ocean is magical, but also incredibly terrifying. Because, if the current rate of climate change continues, the ocean may be the only thing left of the Pacific islands I call home,” said Ms Jiva. “This is part of the message I took with me on this programme: that climate change is real, vulnerable communities are already facing devastating impacts, and we need a safe and just transition to renewable energy as soon as possible.” Read a full report of this event here.

Discussions continued into the second week of COP on the need to take action to protect our environment not just for ourselves, but for future generations. This year’s conference was the longest in the history of the UNFCCC. When it came to a conclusion on 15 December, many delegates and observers, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, expressed disappointment with the results. Yet, refusing to see the conference as a defeat, the Secretary-General wrote that he is “more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be the year in which all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and a no more than 1.5 degree temperature rise.” He added, “the signals of hope are multiplying. Public opinion is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization.”

For climate action to make the necessary impact, individuals, organisations and states around the world must work together. This year’s COP provided a platform to bring attention to the critical urgency of this issue and to further build citizens’ networks for climate action on a global scale, and Peace Boat will continue to work towards achieving a more sustainable future.