Interview with the Latvian delegation @ COP18

I arrived for the second week of the COP18 to replace David Emmerman and Kathryn Wright to continue our project with the Latvian NGO homo ecos:. The goal of this project was simple, to get progress updates from working groups on matters that are important to Latvia. These updates were then disseminated to the broader public via a social media campaign (@LatviaCOP18Chat).
Unfortunately, I only had observer status and was not able to attend most of the important meetings. But the updates on the progress made in the three tracks were still accessible from tweets and emails at the COP. In fact, everyday there was more information coming in than one person could handle. Sorting through all the information, picking and choosing messages was difficult and time consuming. Thus, from the start of the second week, I was looking forward to talk to the delegates from Latvia to get their perspective on the progress of negotiations and interview them about their specific focus areas.
After multiple attempts, I finally met with two Latvian delegates last Thursday. They kindly agreed to chat in an informal setting over lunch and I had chance to get more information on their personal backgrounds and perspectives on a range of issues. For example, they acknowledged that Latvia sends a small delegation to COPs and as such the delegates are busy all the time (one of the reasons I was not able to meet them earlier). These delegates have to carefully coordinate their actions to keep up with the progress made in each of the separate tracks.
Despite such busyness they agreed to meet again the next day (on Friday) and answer specific questions that were to be submitted to @LatviaCOP18Chat from the public. Thus, we met again on Friday and I got to ask them the questions submitted from the public. The delegates were very pleased to know that the Latvian public is interested in climate change issues and readily answered all questions. They told me that they know the NGO homo ecos; and expressed interest in working with the organization in the years to come, to meet new students who will represent the interests of NGOs at future COPs. Personally, I positively felt that they were sincere in their intention to continue working with new students who will represent interests of the civil society. It was a real pleasure talking to the delegates for two days in a row since I got to learn a great deal from their answers to the specific questions and from their comments on the process of negotiations.
Even though it would be too long to present the full conversation with the Latvian delegates, I found their answers to a few specific questions very interesting and decided to present them below. Before proceeding to Q&As, however, I would like to thank everyone who supported this project, especially Madara Peipina from homo ecos;, the Latvian graduate students who assisted us with this project, the Latvian delegates and the other two members of Team Latvia.
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Q: How are things looking for Latvia in regards to the AAUs carry-over to the second commitment period of the KP?
A: The importance of the AAUs carry-over to Latvia is been lowered. Our position now matches the official position of the EU and we are flexible with the AAUs carry-over to the second period of the KP.
Q: What are the important issues to Latvia then? What topics are you mostly focusing on at this COP?
A: We are still interested in maritime issues, LULUCF, but our main focus is on the issues related to adaptation.
Q: We have been reading that Latvia is undertaking numerous domestic projects for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Does Latvia also provide assistance to non-Annex I countries in mitigation and adaptation projects?
A: Latvia is an Annex I country but with an economy in transition. As such Latvia’s domestic issues take priority. That is not to say that we did not have any joint projects. Until 2008, we had joint projects in other countries, i.e. Moldova and Georgia. But these projects had a more symbolic goal, to show solidarity between our nations than specifically directed at mitigating/adapting to climate change.
Perhaps, in the future we would be able to provide more assistance to non-Annex I countries, but again we need to wait and see how much of its potential for economic growth Latvia will actually achieve. If Latvia wants to start helping other countries, it needs to solve its domestic issues first.
Q: Latvian public plays a significant role in green development. Why is the issue of climate change not widely covered by the country’s media?
A: For media, the issue of climate change is not interesting. It is not associated with big sensations and it is also quite a complicated issue. Besides, a lot of information on the topic is available from other sources. Those people who are truly concerned and interested about climate change issues can easily access information from other sources.