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Boise's Shiva Rajbhandari debriefs us on COP27

This interview was originally published by Boise State Public Radio.

Boise School Board Trustee and high school senior Shiva Rajbhandari traveled more than 7,000 miles to Egypt last month to attend COP 27.

That’s the United Nation’s annual summit on climate change.

As an official representative of the national League of Women Voters, Rajbhandari attended multiple panels, protests and pavilions. What he saw both energized and disappointed him.

Below is a transcript of his take on the conference from the ground in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Protesters begin chanting: “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!”

Shiva: My friends will tell you that my biggest pet peeve is greenwashing, which is when corporations or really anyone talks all about all the great things they're doing for the environment, for show, without actually really doing anything to combat the environmental crises that they're contributing to. You see this especially from our host country, from Egypt, which has one of the largest pavilions, and the entire pavilion is just about Egyptian culture and heritage. And really nothing if you talk to the folks at the pavilion about what Egypt is doing on climate change.

The very first thing I attended here at COP was a conversation with U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, whose department is leading a lot of the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. And she really came with a message to spread, which was that the U.S. is a leader in the fight against climate change. And that's a message that the president has really tried to put out there. Unfortunately, Congress really hasn't given the administration a lot to work with on that front, considering that the Inflation Reduction Act and all of Biden's efforts still have not gotten us on track to meet our nationally determined contribution, our commitments that we made in the Paris Climate Accords by 2030. However, Secretary Granholm did talk a lot about prioritizing fenceline and frontline communities and a just transition away from fossil fuels, and that is somewhere that the US has been a leader.

Shiva: Indigenous activists from Canada are standing in the center of the conference with a banner reading No More Stolen Relatives on Stolen Land. They're demanding answers to the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited folks in Canada. And they're tying the connection to capitalism and the exploitation of the earth.

Protesters chants fade in: “Show us the money. Where is the money? Show us the money. Where is the money?”

Shiva: One of the things most talked about here at COP has been loss and damage financing, which essentially are reparations paid for by high emitting wealthy countries to developing countries, island nations and Indigenous communities that have seen the first and foremost effects of climate change. And one of the big asks is grants, not loans. President Biden on Friday announced $11 billion for a loss and damage fund paid for by the United States, which is far short of that $100 billion that activists from developing countries have been asking for, which many say is actually too little.

Shiva: The last couple of days of COP have been a bit overwhelming because there are so many panels and so many pavilions and so many things going on all at once. This morning I attended a panel that was actually pretty sparsely attended with mayors from three of the world's largest cities. And later I attended a presentation by the former president of Ireland that was meant for youth activists. And it's crazy how much science and how much policy is really at our fingertips here in Sharm El-Sheikh. And it's a bit unfortunate that these kinds of events, this kind of information cannot be made more available to the public worldwide.