6 things I wish I knew at my first UN Climate Conference

My first ever COP was COP22 in 2016 in Morocco where I was part of Climate Tracker team.  I was only 18-year-old at the time. It was such an exciting experience that pushed me out of my comfort bubble and changed my life completely. 

If I was asked what I wish I knew better before heading to COP22, it will probably be those things:

1) The Acronyms: 

At first, I thought that Climate Tracker team (especially Anna) are exaggerating a bit about acronyms and how negotiators speak gibberish in COP but then I went to my first negotiation session and I spent it all googling acronyms rather than paying attention to the session itself. 

In COP it’s also very common to talk with strangers about the negotiations during coffee or lunch lines and I remember on the first days, someone asked me if I was following WIM and it took me a while to realize what that is. 

So my advice for anyone attending COP is to familiarise yourself with the acronyms because it will make it easier for you to ask questions and to understand what people are talking about.

 2) Proper Planning:  

COP is overwhelming, you can’t get the hang of it in a day and you definitely can’t follow and attend everything.

During the first days of COP22, I didn’t check the side event’s and negotiations’ schedule on a daily basis and I sometimes ended up with unproductive day because I tried to follow everything but of course I failed and wasted the chance to work on interesting articles because of my lack of proper planning. 


3) More Negotiations Less Side Events: 

Side events can be attractive and really easy articles to get done. On my 1st COP, I attended lots of side events which helped me produce many good articles but what I wish I could have done is challenge myself to go to the negotiations and try to understand what they are talking about. 

I was insecure about attending the negotiations at first because I thought only senior people with years of experience in the UN would understand it but I was wrong. You can understand anything at COP because you can always stop a stranger and ask them about it. You can also track down your delegation and have them explain things to you and show you what your country stands on in each negotiation topic. 

But really… don’t be shy. Ask questions! 

4) The Agenda:

In my first COP, I was always so confused when people say things like “Agenda item 8” and that’s because I didn’t really check the COP agenda (which is always uploaded on the UNFCCC website weeks before COP officially starts) 

The Agenda is really important because it gives you a good understanding of what is being negotiated. You don’t have to memorize it but have it on your phone or on your laptop so you can access it fast and trust me, by the last days of COP, you will realize that you have memorized it all. 

We made it easy for you and you can also check the agenda here. 

5) The Power of Twitter:

In 2016, I remember that Climate Tracker team encouraged us to use social media to post pictures, tweet about things and even ask questions. I was a bit insecure at first about using my own social media and didn’t see the point of it.

On the first days, I couldn’t find anyone from my delegation and was a bit upset about this because I had many questions for them. Chris encouraged me to tweet “I’m in COP22 and would love to meet Sudanese people participating” and so I did. In less than an hour, I linked up with 3 Sudanese negotiators and they helped me meet the Sudan Ministry of Environment. After that, I started tweeting non-stop and until now it’s my favorite thing to do at COP. 


6) Collaborating with the Team:

One of the coolest things about being with Climate Tracker at COP is the team. In Morocco, I was part of a team made of 11 people from 11 countries, it was really fun and interesting to work with the team but I really wish I would’ve done it more 

If you think about it, by working on collaborative articles with the team members, you could end up publishing in new countries that you would otherwise never or hardly reach. 


Lina Yassin
Middle East and North Africa Program Manager. In 2016 became the youngest Sudanese climate journalist to publish in a national newspaper. Working from Sudan, at least when they don't have blackouts.