This is a guest blog by Allison Gacad, an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, and an alumnus of Environmental Defence’s Young Reporters for the Environment program. She is currently covering the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.

Jet-lagged but ready to take on the day, I, along with three other Young Reporters for the Environment, took a bus from our hostel in Cologne, Germany to Bonn for the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23).

Young Reporters for the Environment at COP23
Allison Gacad (left) along with other Young Reporters for the Environment at COP23.


COP23 is split up into two zones: the Bula Zone, where the high-level negotiations are taking place, and the Bonn Zone, which is the spot for high-level events and roundtables. We headed down to the Bonn Zone, where we had the freedom to choose the events we wanted to cover.

The opening plenary was a room jam-packed with people, with observers filling every available seat and lined up against the walls. I found a spot on the floor with my laptop where I could both see and hear the panelists, who were a diverse group of people. Representatives from the island nations of Fiji and Tuvalu were present, as well as the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization. There was even an astronaut from the European Space Agency.

Plenary session at COP23
Packed room at the Opening Plenary


The second set of roundtables included climate scientists, leaders of the island nations of Samoa and St. Lucia, as well as a representative from the for-profit sector, Danone. This roundtable was particularly interesting because of its well-rounded and vast approach to tackling climate change. By the end of the roundtable, it was clear that many diverse groups of people were making a concerted effort to tackle this issue through the specific lens of food security and sustainable food systems.

One perspective that I thoroughly enjoyed was that of the Small Island Developing Nations (SIDs) including the ones I mentioned above; Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa and St. Lucia. Considering that SIDs are impacted the most by climate change, the urgency in their speeches made it clear that action is needed.

Speakers at COP23
Closing Plenary Panel- left to right, Lucy Hockings, BBC journalist, Mezouar Salaheddine, President of COP22, Inia Seruirartu, Minister for Agriculture and minister for rural and maritime development and national disaster, Fiji, and H.E Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, New Zealand


All in all, it was a great first day. I can’t wait for Day 2!

If you’d like to read my article I wrote about Day 1, you can find it here.  I’ll update you on my second day adventures soon.