Playing games at COP 19 to spread the word

A blog from Warsaw by Beatriz Zavariz, Yale University

We are in the third day of the 19th Conference of the Parties  to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP 19 external. I’m writing from Warsaw, reflecting on the progress of these two climate change days.

These will be two weeks full of negotiations, conferences, networking, advocacy, learning and games. Yes! You read correctly, games!  All of it to contribute to tackling humanity’s most pressing threat: climate change.

A team of three students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies external Master of Environmental Management course, Rex Barrer, Verner Wilson III, and I, are to advocate for the Red Cross Red Crescent messages at COP 19. These include:

1. Climate change is increasing disaster risk for millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.
2. Local action is key to adaptation and mitigation. Empowering communities through knowledge about climate change is crucial to ensure informed and appropriate action at the local level.
3. More investment is needed for disaster risk reduction, including effective early-warning systems across all timescales.
4. Youth engagement is key for developing sustainable solutions into the future.
5. More attention is needed for solutions that harness synergies between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation.

To accelerate learning, dialogue and action on climate risks, while engaging people’s minds and emotions, the Climate Centre has designed over 30 participatory games which offer a sharp contrast to unidirectional learning through traditional lectures and PowerPoint presentations. 

One well-known game is Paying for predictions. Players become Red Cross Red Crescent workers who face changing risks, and must decide whether or not to invest in early action based on the threat of heavy rainfall, determined by the roll of two dice.

In the game, players fear “acting in vain”, i.e. taking disaster preparedness measures when a disaster may not strike; but if it does and players have not opted to invest in early action (disaster preparedness), the penalty can be high.

In the end, participants learn about the potential value and limitations of seasonal forecasts for the humanitarian sector, and that as climate change and other trends increase the risk of floods, forecasts will become progressively more valuable to reduce losses.

Paying for predictions” is one of the many games to be played at the side event “Development and Climate Days” at COP 19. 

The Climate Centre in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED external) will also host a day-long programme featuring games as an intensely interactive way to get UN negotiators, scientists and policy-makers to explore and address the complex relationships between climate change, including topics related to attribution, and loss and damage.

Rex, Verner and I are looking forward to a weekend full of games, entertainment and engagement. We hope so are you! Stay tuned for our updates on how these games unveil over the course of the weekend.

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