#COP21: Bringing the UN Climate Talks to the World

As the UN climate negotiations, also known as COP21, wind down in Paris, it’s an opportune time to highlight the Locally Employed Staff (LES) from U.S. embassies around the world who were instrumental in supporting the frenzy of activities on the ground here.

For the past two weeks at the U.S. Center, the U.S. public outreach space at COP21, we’ve been proud to host several LES who helped fulfill the U.S. Center’s mission of bringing COP21 to the world. Staffers came from far and wide: Brasilia, Beijing, Dublin, Dhaka, Paris, Reykjavik, Brussels, and Mumbai.

The LES at the U.S. Center played an invaluable role in informing audiences in their home countries about the importance of COP21. By live-tweeting U.S. Center sessions and posting photos and videos of activities around the event, with text translated into local languages, LES helped audiences from around the world access climate information and learn more about U.S. climate action.

Meet a few of our LES colleagues and read what they had to say about COP21:

Sirat Mahadi, U.S. Embassy, Dhaka, Bangladesh:

Sirat Mahadi, local staff member from U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh, poses at a photo booth area in the US Center at COP21. [State Photo]

“Coming to the COP was a great experience; it was so great to work with this team. It’s my first time in Paris and my first TDY [overseas travel assignment]. I didn’t expect the COP to be this big.

“Climate change is a huge issue in Bangladesh because it’s a low-lying country. We have floods almost every year, as well as typhoons. So the COP summit is really important for us.

“I got to attend Secretary Kerry’s speech this week. It was inspiring to hear how the Obama Administration is taking real action—not just plans—and how other countries are also collaborating. Everyone is taking climate change more seriously than ever, and it’s clear we have to act now.”

Asgrimur Sigurdsson, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland:                                

Asgrimur Sigurdsson from U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland stands in front of the U.S. Center's NOAA's Science Sphere at COP21 in Paris, France [State Photo].

“I wasn’t sure what to expect in coming here, but I’ve been impressed with how big the COP is. In Iceland, climate change is something everyone is increasingly aware of. Glaciers are receding at a well-documented pace, and we need to do something sooner rather than later. So the COP is receiving a lot of publicity back home.

“My favorite thing at the COP was an event at the U.S. Center about the Arctic—it’s something I want people to know more about.” (See video from the event here.)

Diarmaid Keene, U.S. Embassy Dublin, Ireland:

“I thoroughly enjoyed working at the US Center at COP21. The sheer scale of the event was staggering, it was interesting to be a part of something so global and at the same time so important to the future of the planet.”

“I enjoyed getting to know people from different USG agencies. In my role with the Embassy in Ireland I would never cross paths with people from NOAA, EPA, USAID. Making new contacts with all these people was hugely beneficial.

“Climate change is a topic Irish people are becoming increasing concerned about and as COP progressed more and more Irish were engaging online. 

“Every day was different and exciting, and each talk on stage explored the different prospects we face as climate change becomes a reality. Learning from the speakers what they are confronting or finding was an eye opener.”

Laurens Vermeire, U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium:

Laurens Vermeire, local staff from U.S. Embassy Brussels,  attends his second COP event, serving at the U.S. Center at this year's COP21 in Paris [State Photo].

“This is my second COP—I was also in Copenhagen in 2009. And in the 6 years since, we’ve made a lot of progress. Countries submitting their plans to cut carbon pollution ahead of the conference itself was a stroke of genius.”

“In coming here, I expected long days and a lot of hurrying up and waiting. There’s lots of talking and thinking going on, along with a lot of press engagement by the State Department. But it’s all been worth it.

“My favorite thing might’ve been the free chocolate organizers gave away in the mornings. It was a nice gesture that I think broke up the routine, and spreading good vibes can only impact the negotiations in a positive way.”

Chen Er from Embassy Beijing and Aditi Tandon from Consulate Mumbai pose in front of U.S. Center at COP21 [State Photo].

The U.S. Center was proud to host global staff members from all over the world during the COP, and appreciates their hard work to inform audiences about COP21.

About the Authors: Georgia Mu serves as Assistant Director of the U.S. Center at the COP21, and Ann Hunter-Pirtle serves in the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information:

The Eiffel Tower and ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde as seen from the hotel used by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as he attends the COP21 climate change conference in Paris, France, on December 7, 2015. [State Photo]
December 14, 2015

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