Saturday, the day that we were officially finished with our time inside the COP. During the past week, we were able to meet up with our week 1 partners, gain insight from them, explore the National Stadium, Warsaw, and our own personal drive. As we were exploring more of Warsaw, the UNFCCC and the delegates were making progress in sessions like yesterdays. We found out that the negotiations Friday night did not let out until 0300 hours Saturday morning and the delegates were reconvened at 0500 hours Saturday morning. I am not sure if the negotiations lasted the entire day, but we received a press release this evening about 2145 hours (9:45 pm) about the final meeting.
The results of this years COP were smaller than baby steps. Honestly, I wish more progress was completed, but some progress (even as little as this years was) is better than no progress, or backward progress. The main outcome of this years meeting was the "“Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage" which helps the most vulnerable populations with protection against loss and damage from extreme weather events and rising tides from climate change. Christiana Figueres whose position of Executive Secretary had one of the best responses to the ending of the COP, "We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent,
extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price...Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference."
More information on the press release can be found on the UNFCCC website at: http://unfccc.int/files/press/news_room/press_releases_and_advisories/application/pdf/131123_pr_closing_cop19.pdf
Where does greatness begin?
With a simple idea. That, and some brilliant execution.
Bernice Dapaah, Executive Director of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, has done just that. The bamboo bike is an ingenious idea that will help put climate change on the map. The project uses locally sourced bamboo and labor (mostly youth and women who face extreme unemployment rates) to make these amazing bikes. The bikes are sustainable and affordable, going hand-in-hand with replantation efforts, and are 5 times stronger than Western metals! They can carry passengers and carts that attach to the back with a load between 100-200 kilos. The bikes also last longer and require less maintenance than Western bikes. The only part of the bike that needs attention is the tires.
This is a project so revolutionary, so astounding that all we can think is:
Why didn’t I think of that?
Because Bernice Dapaah is a genius. Not only are Ms. Dapaah and her staff empowering women, fighting climate change, reducing high unemployment and addressing poverty- they are also making a product that is extremely marketable.
This, my friends, is where the genius lies. Not only does this project address a multitude of social justice issues, which I’ve written about previously as key to addressing climate change, it also gets others involved in this issue. Especially those who may not think about climate change, Ghana, or issues of poverty and gender inequality as relevant to their daily lives.
In the US, where climate change is still up for debate and there is much resistance to life-style changes that favor “going green,” think of what a marketable product like bamboo bikes could mean for climate change awareness and reducing green house gas emissions.
Everyone and their mother will want a bamboo bike.
It’s cool, it’s unusual, and it comes with bragging rights. Not only will consumers be able to rock the latest innovation in transportation, they will also be able to say they are simultaneously helping to eradicate poverty and give the youth and women in Ghana voices in their communities, but hey, they're helping to save the planet, too. Most importantly, they will be thinking about saving the plant and directly affecting those who are disproportionately feeling the affects of climate change in developing countries. Climate literacy coupled with a social justice initiative? Brilliant.
With this initiative comes the power to influence a broad audience. Even an audience that may not have had exposure to or an understanding of the issues we're facing due to climate change and the gender inequality and extreme poverty that plague our world. Within this project is the power to showcase women as active agents in this movement, and spread a mission and a passion that can directly make a real difference on the lives of people livingin Ghana. This isn’t just another consumer product. It’s a sustainable, affordable green product with a social justice mission.
And that my friends, is what we call a win-win situation.
Contrary to what I had been expecting, so far today seems uneventful. Walking around before my the first talk I wanted to attend, the stadium seemed a lot quieter and not as much excitement. I could propose this is because of a couple things. First, yesterday, about 800 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) walked out on the conference and throwing their badges away, assuring they would not be allowed in today. they were showing their disapproval for the lack of progress with the talks here in Warsaw. The second possibility could be that the COPis the ending of the COP and a lot of the big talks are over. Looking at the daily schedule, I did notice a large reduction in the amount of talks available to attend. Some of the delegates, such as the US Center are in the process of taking down their areas when it is only 1330 in the afternoon (everything here is 24 hour format, 1:30pm for reference).
I was able to go to a high level segment and felt really official wearing the translation device. The speakers were a combinations of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and NGOs speaking to delegates of all the countries who attended the talk. The tone of the brief speeches from the NGO's and IGO's coincided with the scientists. Wake up, recognize there is a problem and begin to solve it were the main points from many of the speakers. A young woman from Somalia (I believe) rose up to the podium and in her soft voice gave a bold message. Referencing the amount of COPs, "you will have been doing this for 21 years and what do you have to show for it?! [referencing the projected plan of agreement in 2015's meeting]" "You cannot hind the truth from deception," and pleaded, "don't let Warsaw become another Copenhagen." Her words resonated with the audience in what I believe was the loudest applause of the speakers.
I was planning on attending two different talks later that day, one of which was a closing meeting type of press conference. It was originally scheduled for 1500 hours, but was delayed. This was a bit of a setback until I saw another talk that I wanted to go to, but long story short, I was in line for the second talk and realized that one was then delayed. The closing talk didn't start until around 1830 hours. It was quite a site seeing the room packed with delegates from countries from around the world knowing that they are here to discuss a common goal, although, the type of progress I wanted to see reached was way to optimistic for this meeting.
Final meeting of all the delegates of the 19th COP
Today we all attended a Connect 4 Climate workshop that was aimed at starting a dialogue about problems and solutions regarding climate change. There were five breakout sessions and Rachel and I attended the Leading for Solutions breakout session while Dave went to Innovating Campaign Strategies. I was expecting a lively discussion on what needs to be done globally throughout the world toward solving climate change issues. Or maybe a brainstorming session of what ideal solutions would be and some steps that could be taken toward achieving them. What I did not expect was 15 people sitting in a room just saying stuff.
Now that sounds weird and confusing. When I say saying stuff, I mean that there was no real back and forth discussion. People were just saying their points and our "leader" was picking points that he agreed with and putting them on our sheet to present at the synthesis session later. At one point, he just told us one of his thoughts, and when no one had anything to say about it, he just wrote it down to present later even though there was no real discussion around it.
Now from what I understand, this was not typical for the other breakout session. David's session seemed to have had an actual discussion that resulted in some good points (that David actually got to present in front the entire workshop).
That really got me thinking about how my experience might not be that much different from how the negotiations work. We had a lot of valid points in our breakout sessions. At one point I talked about how in Alabama, a lot of people are very conservative and simply don't believe in climate change.Our moderator simply said "Well climate change is really a scientific fact and not really a debate." and completely dismissed that climate change being a debate is part of the problem. Because he did not see it as a problem, and maybe the rest of the world does not have a debate about it, he did not address it as a valid concern.
Maybe the problem with UN negotiation is that no one really listens to each other. Because one thing isn't a concern for one country, they may dismiss another country's concerns. Another problem could be that everyone is just waiting their turn to talk. No one actually listens to what each other are saying. Now, I've never actually been to a negotiation, but I can only imagine that people only tend to want what they want and tend to be very unwilling to actually negotiate.
I think the key to negotiating, in any situation be it every day or at an international level, is listening and understanding. It is necessary to understand where people come from and that might now be like you and to genuinely listen to what they want. Negotiations are supposed to be about everyone involved, not just getting what you want.
Rachel, Emily and I all decided to take a journey to a workshop at the University of Warsaw hosted by Connect4Climate. There were many focuses
that we could break into, but I went to a workgroup that was focused on
innovating campaign strategies. Jamie Henn was supposed to be a chair for
our group, but did not show up to the workgroup. Eight of us, from all
different countries ranging from South Africa to European countries such as
Italy and Austria. Each one of us brought a different perspective to the
talk. After the introductions, the discussion
Many of the group members had worked in some kind of climate change campaign and had knowledge about how to gain more members in the mediums that are used. Some ideas spoke of having a long term goal, but remembering that you also need to celebrate the small victories that you may achieve during your campaign. For instance, when we reached 500 likes on our Facebook page, I saw that as a great victory and then continued to press forward to gain more members. Another member had a program that was able to look at sites that were able to determine the traffic on your website, along with what was being searched on your site, and if they were referring to the words they searched in a positive, negative or neutral view. We also discussed the importance of not just having a web based presence, but making sure that there is a personal interaction between groups and their members.
At the end of the workgroup, which lasted about two hours, we had to pick a person to report to the desk about what we had concluded on in reference to innovating campaign strategies. I volunteered, thinking that I would simply hand in a piece of paper saying what we though. I was wrong. I ended up back in a
reception area near the auditorium on campus and met up with Rachel and
Emily. At this point, we discussed what we had gone over and then two
Polish student volunteers came up to me and told me to go talk to someone.
I was herded over to speak to a moderator of the talk who informed me that I
needed to write the statement about what we decided on, but also, that since the
chair was not in my group, that I would be presenting it in front of the
auditorium which included students, press and scholars. Also in attendance
was Rachel Kyte, the vice president for sustainable development at the Worlds
Bank. I was amazed and ran into Rachel and Emily who quickly pulled their
phones out after I told them of the news and acted like I was some kind of
celebrity telling me to pose and ask for sound bytes.
I went into the auditorium to try and find some member of my group and tell them the news and ask for their input. I was trying to scribble down the information when the moderator basically called me out and told me to sit with all of the chairs (I felt underdressed not wearing my shirt and tie, the first day that I didn't do so). I sat down and realized that I was sitting next to Rachel Kyte, which was pretty amazing.
Sitting with the chairs of the meeting, Rachel Kyte is next to me jotting down notes.
The 2013 Lighthouse Award Recipients: Women for Results panel was one of the most inspiring events I've attended thus far at the COP! Women all over the world are doing real work in their communities to take action against climate change, and making a real difference.
1 Million Women stood out to me because it was the only project that focused on the changes women can make within developed nations. Many times developed countries (like Australia and the United States) focus primarily on providing aid to developing nations who need help responding and adapting to the effects of climate change. While this is extremely important, as I will talk about in later posts about the other Lighthouse projects, it can also deter us from focusing on our responsibility to change ourselves.
Australia and the United States are large consumer nations, and it is impossible to think that we can be world leaders on climate change if we don't first change our habits of consumption and waste. The 1 Million Women Campaign in Australia shows that women in can and are changing the world, one person at a time. Even as there is no Australian delegation present at the COP, we can see that individuals within nations are putting pressure on their governments to take action. As Natalie Isaacs, founder and CEO of 1 Million Women, said during her speech:
"While the rest of the wrold is debating, what 1 Million Women is about is just getting on with it"
The beauty of 1 Million Women and the other projects highlighted as Lighthouse Projects is that they are doing just that- moving past all the stalemates and debates and simply getting on with it!
WE CANNOT WAIT
Women in developing nations make 70% of the consumer decisions in households. That gives us tremendous POWER to change our consumption habits and limit waste and emissions. This is the focus of 1 Million Women- empowering women to see that we can make a difference one woman at a time.
As Christiana Figueres,
Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, adapting a quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead:
"Never doubt what a handful of women can do if they are truly committed to a cause."
Imagine what 1 Million Women could do.
Today I encountered something I had no expected to find at the COP. David and I went to a press conference entitled "Challenging UN climate and policy." I fully expected just a press conference maybe questioning the UN's tactics, which would not be unheard of. I was not expecting a 25 minute take down of climate change.
The star of this talk was Marc Morano
, who essentially said that everyone who believes in climate change is wrong and that its a whole alarmist ploy by the media. Here is a link
to the brief Q&A that was after the press conference. They mostly condemned people who believe in climate change as socialists who don't think for themselves. Their main "proof" was that the scientific reports on climate change are always changing. The main problem CFACT seems to have is that they don't really understand how research and scientific modeling works.
Go home CFACT. You're drunk.
Any time a new model is proposed, there is always an error associated with it. And with new technology being developed and improved constantly, there are bound to be errors that can be accounted for as this new technology comes about. So guys, that's why new reports come out all the time and their conclusions change. New technology and insights change projections. I might also add that 97% of the scientific community agrees that climate change is indeed a thing. It is a pressing issue that we face everyday. That fact does not change from day to day. What changes are the projections. The exact level oceans will rise and what year is the point of no return changes, but one thing remains the same- our environment will be affected if we continue on our current course. And in my opinion, the levels and the dates don't really matter if our planet is on the line.
Today we visited the Palace of Culture and Science in Central Warsaw. Originally named the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science in the 1950s, the building is very controversial in Poland as it is a reminder of the era of Soviet domination. We were shocked to find out that such a beautiful building could cause such conflicting emotions, but very quickly realized that the controversy is approached with much humor, the common joke being:
“The Palace of Culture and Science has the best view of the city!"
"Because it’s not in it.”
We had the honor of meeting with Dr. Marek Chmielewski, Vice President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and snapped a couple of quick photos of the city from the amazing view outside his office.
Dr. Chmielewski gave us many insights into the Polish scientific community’s action in regards to climate change and environmental research. Challenges to the implementation of renewable energy sources were due to low wind levels, and the flat structure of the land making many renewable energy sources difficult or inefficient to use. We were made aware of many successful projects, such as reforestation efforts and the breeding of native Poland animals, such as the Polish horse.
We also discussed the promotion of women in science in Poland, and I was pleased to learn that there are programs in place to promote women in the Academy. Unfortunately, just as is the case in the US, many women do not make it to the highest positions in their fields, even though about half the Ph.Ds in Poland are earned by women.
I am always interested to learn how various organizations promote women entering the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. In the Polish Academy of Science only 20-25% of women who complete Ph.D. degrees become Professors, and very few enter fields such as engineering, math, physics and technical sciences. The reasoning for this is slightly different than the case in the United States, because in order to become part of the academy scientists must complete some sort of work experience abroad. Up until the late 70s and early 80s scientists who traveled abroad were not usually allowed to bring their families with them, which limited women’s ability to attain the credentials necessary to enter the Academy. Fortunately today this is not the case, and we hope to see even more representation of women in science.
A whole lot of blogs to come tomorrow outlining
Gender Day Events!!
After an amazing meeting with one of the Vice Presidents of the Polish Academy of Sciences, we hopped on the train to the National Stadium. While sitting in the food court area, planning what we were going to go to, a young person comes up to us dropping off a piece of paper telling us, “Hey guys, you should come to this.” After looking getting over the fact that the presentation of the talk wasn’t the greatest and we were somewhat turned off, we looked over the paper to see that it was having an Apollo 7 astronaut on the panel. I had heard from previous people that there was usually a “meet an astronaut” time at the COP, I thought this was it. I was eager to go to it with Emily. We had to duck out of a very interesting talk at the US Center (which I will discuss later) during the Q & A to get to the venue. Heading onto the field area of where the soccer team plays, there is a giant structure where the large delegations and negotiations are held. Among some of these large halls were smaller, yet just as impressive conference rooms. We were amazed by the hustle and bustle of one of the corridors, which reminded me of a subway tunnel with everyone crammed together trying to get to where they needed to be. Security assisted in checking badges making sure that the press and negotiators were the only members getting into certain rooms.
As we went into our room, we got seats near the front of the room where I always like to get a seat so I can get good pictures of the talk or any slides that are shown. The introduction of the speakers and the topic went “normal” for all of about, the first 30 seconds, and then the lines of skepticism started to pour out. The talk was more like a spectacle than anything informative. I knew I would have to quote exactly what the people were saying because of how Ludacris the allegations were. The first speaker, Marc Morano, spoke that the level of publication about climate change is that of the “level of medieval witchcraft.” He spoke on the amount of droughts and tornadoes are on the decline, but somehow forgot to mention that when they did happen, they were utterly devastating. Drought levels are turning marina’s into dry docks, the lake beds look like they have not seen the presence of water in years. He also spoke saying that the “whole movement is running into the ground.” I don’t see this at all, with the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang showing an increase in percentage of scientists who believe climate change is happening and that humans are a large cause of it. A growing majority of Americans believe that climate change is occurring and that something needs to be done about it. For those of you who don’t know, Australia dropped out of the Green Climate Fund which would essentially offer aid to developing nations to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. Mr. Morando praised this behavior exclaiming “Australia gets it” and “Viva, Australia.” To me, this is the nonsense which halts the progress that need to be done especially since he tried to dismiss science and he is a political science major upon graduation. Ironic that at the beginning that they asked if there were any climate scientists in the audience at the beginning because they sure aren't anything close to being one either, but they are spewing this misinformation.
Marc Morano on the left and Walt Cunningham on the right
Our first day at COP19 was enlightening. When I got there I expected to find the US center easily. I mean we are a major world power after all. We walked up to the first floor to explore and found the EU pavilion (along with some awesome welcome bags). We finally had to ask some volunteers for the conference where the US pavilion was. Surely we were just missing some huge sign. On our way to the US center we went through another part of the EU pavilion. We finally saw the sign and walked toward it. When we got in it was a bit underwhelming. There was one large room (smaller than a ballroom, larger than a living room) divided into two parts. One side had the incredibly impressive NASA Hyperwall and the other side was the event area. From everything I had heard in the media, I expected the US to be essentially running the show. Instead, I found that the EU has a significant presence at the COP. After hearing presentations from the US and EU about their climate change policy, I now understand why the EU are really the main players at COP19.
The first talk I went to at COP19 was about President Obama's Climate Action Plan.The talk gave very general ideas and goals. A lot of phrases like "adaptation and mitigation", "reducing emissions", and "measures must be taken" were used, which leads me to think that is no real plan in place. Just general goals that would ideally be met by 2025. The Climate Action Plan does specify that the US wants to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by 2025. Unfortunately, this leaves a gap in the goal that would eliminate and harmful effects to the environment by 2050.
The US talks did have its good points though. Chair Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality mentioned that a big part of reducing emissions would be setting fuel economy standards. Taking gas guzzlers off of the roads would go a long way toward reducing carbon emissions. Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe at the EPA said that since everyone wants reduced pollution, more disaster preparedness, and a lower energy bill, Americans would be more willing to work toward reducing green house gas emissions if that were a clear goal.
CECILIA2050, a project that is working to transform the EU to a low-carbon economy by 2050, gave a talk about what they have proposed to optimize the EU's climate change policies. CECILIA2050 outlines 3 main components for combating climate change: effectiveness, efficiency (cost-effectiveness), and feasibility. Their method of taking stock of current EU climate change policy, defining the optimal climate policy, and evaluating the policy mixed has bee researched thoroughly by CECILIA2050. They have decided to implement short term improvements along with long term strategies to successfully reach their goal of a low-carbon economy.
Essentially, the US needs to reevaluate some aspects of their climate change policy. The EU's model is a great place to start. The US could do research into what would be the best way to get the American public on board with climate change policy. In the end, policy is a major contributor to how climate change is handled, and it will be much more effective if people are behind it 100%.