They rented what looked like a spaceship to host the COP. And much like a commercial aircraft, we had to queue up and go through security to enter this spaceship! This was clearly no ordinary queue though - I don't think I have ever seen so many different nationalities, races, languages, and fancy headgears together, all annoyed in unison at being asked to take their laptops out of their bags for the scanners. This is the closest I am going to get to being inside the Olympic village.
The spaceship-like Spodek stadium in Katowice - the venue for COP 24
There wasn't too much time to gawk around because if the COP is anything, it is busy! The first event I attended was hosted by Friends of the Earth, where they launched their People Power Now! manifesto. The manifesto made a list of ten demands for a just and inclusive transition to a renewable energy economy. They raised points that I had never considered (more such instances followed) - how do we ensure that positive climate action, such as large solar fields, do not destroy arable land or lead to loss of biodiversity? How do we ensure that policies adopted for climate change prevention will not be at the cost of workers or marginalised communities? Will transfer of knowledge and technology in developing countries benefit its people, or its corporations? Salient points, not many answers.
Next up was a panel discussion on making climate action more transparent and ambitious. The Paris Agreement was made up of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that every participating country submitted. Turns out, the voluntary nature of these NDCs meant that many of them were not really attainable, and almost all of them were conditional. The Paris Agreement also asked countries to contribute to a Green Climate Fund which was supposed to get to $100 billion, a figure we are currently woefully short of. Pieter Pauw of the German Development Institute presented that the costs to implement all the NDCs put together are already more than $100 billion - the die was loaded from the start!
Panel discussion on Making climate action more transparent and ambitious
L-R: Angel Hsu, Pieter Pauw, moderator guy, Clara Brandi, nice guy from Bangladesh, Nicklas Höhne
However, there could be a wormhole that could help us get back on track - non-state actors! Dr. Angel Hsu presented a study that showed that most of the Annex-I (read: wealthy) countries have not accounted for contributions from non-state actors (NSAs) - city councils, umbrella organisations, and private entities - in their NDCs. She contested that if these countries could leverage NSAs to pull their weight, we would be right back on track towards limiting temperature rise to only 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nicklas Höhne then showcased the findings of his survey - most countries have not found political will lacking while making stronger climate policies; what they have struggled with is securing funding and support from private actors. The irony, that he said this to a room full of diplomats and PhD students, was not lost on anyone.
With energy levels flagging and beer o'clock in sight, I dragged myself to the last discussion of the day - Public engagement with climate change. I was engaged from the get-go. Climate news is almost always perceived as bad news - probably because that's how it is often delivered, argued the panel. If we want to engage people, we need to appeal to their values; we need to have an emotional discussion on climate change.
Australia's Climate Communicators - weather reporters delivering climate change information
Stephanie Hall of the Monash University in Australia is taking a stronger stand. She has launched a project in Australia where news weather reporters dole out information about climate change, along with the daily weather. The project draws on her findings that people are more open to receiving information if it comes from a trusted, local voice - doctor, school teacher, weatherman. The science has been around for decades now and pointing to figures and numbers isn't working - it's time, she says, to think like a marketing executive would about a potential consumer.
Eat your heart out, Fox News.