#COP21 journal: Notes from Paris

Rappler is in Paris for the 21st United Nations climate change conference, better known as the COP21. In Paris, countries are expected to hammer out a legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in a bid to stop the planet from getting warmer in the next decades – a deal that could make or break our future.

Rappler journalists Pia Ranada, Fritzie Rodriguez, Voltaire Tupaz, KD Suarez, and Uni Lubis are in Paris, France, to cover the most important climate conference of our generation. Here are their dispatches.

The conference room of the COP21, the UN Conference on Climate Change, is pictured at the COP21 conference center in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on November 28, 2015. Thomas Samson/AFP

The conference room of the COP21, the UN Conference on Climate Change, is pictured at the COP21 conference center in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on November 28, 2015.

Thomas Samson/AFP

Things got real, and they got real fast.

Days into the second week of UN climate change negotiations here in Paris, I only had a working understanding of what it means for a country to fight for its interests in what will be a global climate deal.

But an hour ago, I was able to sit in an actual meeting of the Philippine delegation, minutes after the release of the latest version of the draft UN climate deal.

PH NEGOTIATORS. Head of delegation Manny de Guzman addresses Philippine negotiators. All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler

PH NEGOTIATORS. Head of delegation Manny de Guzman addresses Philippine negotiators.

All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler

It was the first time such a crucial meeting was opened to Philippine media. All the other journalists and I could do was keep quiet so as not to disrupt the crucial exchange of ideas.

Negotiators stood up to report on each of their assigned issues, which in the draft agreement take on the form of sets of paragraphs called articles. They got to the nitty-gritty.

Howling winds terrify me.

I trace my fear to the first time I experienced a super typhoon. It was Typhoon Rosing (international codename Angela), back in 1995: I was a 9-year-old kid, and I remembered the deep, horrific, monstrous growl of 215-kilometer-per-hour winds trying to rip off the roof of our house in Virac, Catanduanes. I still feel a sense of dread whenever I recall that long, cold, sleepless night when Rosing hit.

Fortunately, back then, super typhoons were somewhat a rarity, even for our hometown – right smack in the middle of the typhoon belt, where dozens of storms usually pass every year. 

Well, that was then.

A general view shows officials attending the inaugural session of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris. Eric Feferberg/AFP

A general view shows officials attending the inaugural session of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris.

Eric Feferberg/AFP

If only the war against climate change involved a clash of superheroes, stupendous feats of karate, or a heart-stopping motorcycle chase through grimy alleyways.

But those spectacles are reserved for the movies. The defining battle against climate change takes place in a large conference venue in the outskirts of Paris.

It involves not men in tights, but men and women in suits and bright-colored ID straps. (READ: Standing up for PH in Paris climate summit: Meet 6 key negotiators)

It involves not days of hurling fireballs at each other but days of going through thousands of phrases of a document, deciding whether to use “shall” instead of “should.”

Instead of the power to move at the speed of light, the men and women of climate negotiations need to possess the power of determination and strength of will to stand up for their country’s interests; and open-mindedness and understanding to stand up for the interests of the entire world.

The goal is not even to beat a foe. The goal of these negotiators is to forge the world’s plan on how to beat the foe: climate change.

What’s at stake here?

I am one day away from flying to Paris, the city of love. I am thrilled and nervous, anticipating the best and the worst things that could happen. But I have no intention of falling in love with strangers, I'll save that for another trip.

This coming week, I have one main mission and that is to spread love and awareness through stories, in the context of gender, climate change, and human rights.

It's freezing cold in Paris - about 5 degrees Celsius - as the city warms up for the opening of the climate talks of the century.

On Saturday, November 28, summit participants began flying into the Charles de Gaulle airport. The COP21 or Conference of Parties of the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change begins on Monday, November 30, and ends on Friday, December 11.

At the airport, I bumped into a group of indigenous peoples from Nepal attending a global caucus ahead of the climate summit. The indigenous are among the most vulnerable sectors, and are here to influence the outcome of the talks that seek to craft humanity's action plan to combat climate change. 

High military and police visibility here at Charles de Gaulle airport ahead of #COP21. France will deploy nearly 11,000 cops for the climate summit, which will start only a few days after the Nov 13 terror attacks. A photo posted by Voltaire Tupaz (@voltaire_tupaz) on Nov 28, 2015 at 2:53am PST

Around 40,000 visitors are expected to converge in a city still in shock more than two weeks after the November 13 terror attacks. There's high police and military police visibility from the airport all the way to the heart of the city, where many of the 147 heads of state are billeted. They will be kicking off the two-week summit in a leaders' event to be hosted by French President Francois Hollande on Monday, November 30. 

The Rappler team will give daily, real-time updates direct from Paris on the #ClimateChange microsite, while Rappler teams in the Philippines and Indonesia will update on day-to-day reactions from experts, officials, and civil society.

Stay with us on www.rappler.com, on social media, and via the Rappler app (available on iOS and Android) for the latest on climate change and the COP21.Rappler.com