The full circle story | Canadian at COP 21 Blog Series

Reflections from Emilia Belliveau, BCCIC Youth Delegate to COP21

Full disclosure, I wasn’t privy to the COP acronym until the end of my first year of undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University. I was pursuing a combined honours degree in Environment, Sustainability and Society, and Political Science, keen to find practical application for my studies. Learning about the great many ‘wicked problems’ society faces, I felt unsatisfied with being idle.

Perhaps its no surprise then that the most influential lecture I attended during my first year featured a panel of delegates from the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition presenting on their experience at COP16 in Durban. I remember them talking about slow and flawed progresses, the UN-REDD programme, and the experience of being a delegate – but more impressive than their knowledge about UN negotiations were the delegates themselves. They were articulate, observant, passionate people who had found a way to tap in and contribute to the environmental movement – it was exactly what I had been looking for. I decided that one day I would be part of something worth talking about.

I did reach this goal last November. I was a panelist in a lecture called “Divest Dal: Brining Social Justice to Campus” for the same lecture series, in the same hall. While that moment brought me full circle, and is a special memory, it pales in comparison to the significance of the two years I spent organizing with the Divest Dal community. Although, I can’t help but hope it sparked a similar ambition for some audience member as was once sparked in me.

For those unfamiliar with the divestment movement, it aims to address climate change by removing the social license (re: social power) of the fossil fuel industry. In accepting there is a limit to the amount of fossil fuel emissions which can safely be burned without surpassing the 2 degree limit for irreversible global warming, and the business as usual plans for extraction within the fossil fuel industry, the movement asks accountable public institutions to remove their investments in companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves and reinvest in alternatives

As an activist and academic, my interest in social justice and environmental movements is constantly developing. I am currently working on master’s research in political ecology (re: the politics of environmental issues). I suppose this is following selfish curiosity – I really want to know if participation in the environmental movement is useful. Luckily, there is a whole field of social movement research and those who study it are pretty confident it’s a big deal. Being a researcher means that I get to ask a lot of questions, and being an organizer allows me to participate in communities building a new collective vision for the future. The impetus for both is the same, a desire to create change.

“That’s all well and good, but why aren’t you talking about COP21?”, you ask.

I think COP is an incredible flashpoint, where the power dynamics of the environmental movement touch down out of abstraction and play out before our eyes. The interplay between states, industry, civil society groups, and activists is all happening in one space and time! That is pretty much the most exciting thing I can think of from a political ecology perspective! I’m even getting excited as I type!! I want to go to COP to observe these dynamics first hand and to report back to Canadians so together we can hold our government accountable for its climate change responsibilities.

There will be a lot to see at COP21. I’ll try my best to keep up, and let you in on the most interesting updates for Canadians (youth especially), the actions of Canadian environmental groups, and my observations about power relations between the diverse interests participating in COP21. I might even try and crack a few jokes.

Next week – The story of COP


About Emilia Belliveau

Emilia Belliveau is master’s student at the University of Victoria in the School of Environmental Studies and an individual member of BCCIC. In December 2015, she will be travelling to Paris, France to take part in the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. BCCIC as an organization holds observer status to this conference and will be sending Emilia as well as a BCCIC staff member to the negotiations. 

Through the COP21 lead up, and during the conference itself, Emilia will be making regular blogposts which will be available both here at as well as on her personal blog space :

In her own words, Emilia introduces herself below:

Thank you for taking an interest in climate change and international negotiations.

If we have yet to have the pleasure of meeting, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Emilia Belliveau and I’m currently a master’s student at the University of Victoria in the School of Environmental Studies. I’m interested in social justice, feminism, environmentalism, and politics – so I make an all around great party guest! I recently moved to the west coast from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and am enjoying getting to know this side of the continent.

I’ll be using this platform to share my experiences as I attend the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Paris. I have been nominated by the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) as an ‘observer’ delegate, which simply means I’ll be let in to watch the action unfold. This blog will report on both negotiation developments and my personal observations about the conference. I’m grateful for the nomination of BCCIC that has granted me access to this flashpoint in political ecology. It’s important to clarify that the views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of BCCIC or its affiliates.

If curiosity has brought you here – please check in often! I’ll be posting in the lead up to COP21 more about these negotiations (including background info, definitions and resources), their role in addressing climate change, the importance of a ‘treaty year’, the work of BCCIC, and other groups shedding light on Canada’s international action.

I’ll also be sharing the full story of my journey to COP21 and why attending these negotiations is so important to me.

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