Installment 11: Dispatches from COP24, A UMN student delegation in Katowice, Poland
Installment 11 was written by Tyler Vogel, a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The COP Perspective
As a novice to global negotiation platforms, I was unsure of what to expect from COP24. Images of impassioned delegates proposing revolutionary proposals to address the dire need for climate action popped into in my mind. While the passion was clearly present in some (Fijian Prime Minister officiating the opening of COP24 is a great place to start), feelings of despair and complacency were often overwhelming. The U.S., Russia, KSA, and Kuwait rejected language strongly affirming the severity of global warming late into the first week. The tone of COP24 shifted from urgency to desperate urgency. Echoing UN Secretary General Guterres, climate change is the fundamental issue of our time. The lack of action and acknowledgement by the U.S. government and others is inexcusable, but their motivations behind these decisions showcase how directly climate change defines our generation and generations to follow. Two transformative implications of climate change are driving action and non-action from parties: 1) The inevitable damage to the planet increasing exponentially and 2) the potential for a global renaissance embracing green technologies.
Further Climate Crisis Looming
Echoing off the findings from the landmark IPCC report earlier this year, full-on climate catastrophe is decades away, not centuries. In a special message encapsulated by photos of melting asphalt in 50°C temperatures, former U.S. VP Al Gore discussed the current state of the warming climate for countries around the world. To add to the (almost) 18 consecutive hottest years on record, many experts believe there is no way to keep global temperature increase below 4°C. Four degrees of warming could submerge 760 million people’s homes if temperatures were to continue to rise. Natural disasters, drought, infectious diseases, flooding – all expected to increase in prevalence in the decades to follow. These issues are a shared global responsibility with implications directly affecting everyone on the planet as food prices soar and climate migrations tear people from their homes. It is clear, climate injustice places those who have contributed the least to climate change in the most vulnerable of spots. The resulting disagreement falls between developing countries unable to accept responsibility, uneasily committing to global finance where few countries want to take full ownership of their involvement.
A Note of Optimism for the Future
A glimmer of hope does shine through the bureaucratic dogma. From New Zealand phasing out offshore drilling of oil to many countries dedicated to 100% renewables for energy, ambition remains for new countries to emerge as global leaders. A renaissance is coming that will drastically change the functioning of not just energy systems, but of globalized markets. Countries that refuse to commit to a green future will be left in the dust, their adversity stemming not just from ignorance, but rather from a refusal to let go of the status quo. The process will be long – the 30+ hour delay on setting the final agreement of the “Paris Rulebook” can attest to that; however, the world together pushed through adversity.
Personally, I was in awe from the level of passion showcased at COP24, especially by the youth representatives who provided a powerful voice in Katowice. From a climate justice protest to priority from Secretary General in supporting youth questions, youth were the clear driving force of the conference. As the sole Master of Development Practice participant from the UMN delegation, I was particularly moved by the prioritization given to making sure indigenous voices were heard. While further pain and hardship is eminent in our rapidly warming planet, I remain optimistic that through efforts shown here at COP24 we as a global community may just be able to band together and enter into this new green age together.