Installment 14: Dispatches from COP24, A UMN student delegation in Katowice, Poland
Ever since I had the privilege of experiencing COP23 last year in Bonn, Germany, I knew that I wanted to return to Europe take part in COP24.
I spent occasional chunks of time over the past year booking Airbnbs ridiculously early, researching plane ticket prices to several different cities, sending group emails and WhatsApp messages, but mostly reading articles about energy and climate policy to prepare for COP24. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in multiple climate action summits / negotiations, and I would like to thank Beth Mercer-Taylor at IonE and my advisor Professor Gabe Chan for giving me these great opportunities.
I departed from MSP immediately after delivering a presentation on the European Union’s climate action plan for my Climate Policy class. After a ‘layover’ in Chicago, I landed in Vienna, Austria, and spent some time doing tourist things before going back to my hostel and trying to get on a more normal sleep schedule. The next I day I took a bus to Katowice.
Shortly before arrival, we were delayed for a bit by a very large militarized police force that was occupying the streets of central Katowice. They were moving around observing a peaceful group of environmentalists who were demonstrating their desire for more ambitious and equitable climate change mitigation, adaptation, and loss & damage policies. On a related note, at least 40 people from around the world were detained by the Polish government on their way to attend COP24.
I then went to our Airbnb near the Katowice central train station, which required getting through several sets of locked doors and codeboxes in the apartment building. I dropped my backpack off there, and headed to the conference area to pick up my credential badge. I then ran into fellow #MNCOP24 delegates Alexis and Jesse from Climate Generation, and we got our first look at the Spodek, a UFO-esque sports arena that held part of the conference. The rest of the weekend was spent sleeping, and hanging out with the rest of the UMN delegation. It was great to see all the week 1 attendees before they returned to the U.S.
I live-tweeted all the COP24 negotiations, plenaries, official sessions, and side events; @jacob_herbers on Twitter, and also check out #MNCOP24. I’ll summarize some of the most interesting things I learned here, while omitting parts that have already been mentioned by my colleagues on this blog.
COP23 last year placed significant emphasis on pre-2020 ambition, and one of the first things I saw this year was COP24 President Michal Kurtyka and many other dignitaries calling for a goal of $100B/yr of climate finance by 2020, and also for all countries to ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which is the 2nd commitment period lasting from 2012 to 2020. Currently only 122 of the necessary 144 parties have signed it. Grenada official Simon Stiell echoed those concerns on behalf of small island developing states, stating that “some of us have more capacity than others, some of us have more responsibility for climate change than others, and some need more help than others” to adapt to climate change, and deal with the resulting losses and damages.
I was fascinated by a side event on communicating carbon pricing policies. As we have found out in Washington State, this is so critical to the success or failure of policies such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, etc. There are no ‘magic words’ to convincing the general public to support carbon pricing policies, but some things that have been found to be more successful are: emphasizing fairness and balance, a “shift to clean energy”, local angles, and consistent status updates. What doesn’t work is emphasizing costs, “expert consensus”, and a sole focus on climate change.
I had the opportunity to attend a few negotiating sessions for the Paris Climate Agreement Agenda Item 8b: linkages between technology and climate finance. The sessions were mostly ‘informal informals’ which consists of countries’ diplomats talking amongst themselves (aka without Co-Facilitators or secretariats in the room) about line-by-line details of the negotiating text. There were debates on whether or not to spell out names of specific climate funds such as GCF, GEF, etc., or just leave the text generic. The consensus was that several of them should be mentioned with equal emphasis. The U.S. representative argued that Agenda Item 8b should be closed this year due to redundancies with other parts of the Paris Agreement text.
I was also extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be interviewed by the UNFCCC COP24 Climate Action Studio. I chatted with them for a few minutes about my general thoughts about the COP24 climate change negotiation process, as well as my research on renewable energy / green pricing programs in Minnesota.