Climate Conference of Madrid, Spain
It is crucial to work internationally in solving the crisis facing the world that needs a true leadership on global issues. The yearly climate change summits under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are great opportunities to raise climate-related issues every year and discuss the accelerating global warming in order to shape strategies to deal and respond adequately to the needs of the planet.
The special report launched in South Korea by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October this year while citing six thousand scientific references echoed the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C that could prevent some of the worst effects of climate change. And, this report is of utmost importance to most of the countries.
The objective of COP24 being held in Poland’s traditional mining city of Katowice is to reach consensus of all the parties on a set of directives in the light of the Paris Accord to combat climate change. After deadly wildfire in California, climate change should have gotten more attention worldwide, but the negotiators from Saudi Arabia and the United States have allied with their Russian and Kuwaiti counterparts in startling the world representatives at the summit by demurring to a statement ‘welcoming’ the 1.5°C IPCC report. The four fossil-fuel giants argued that it was sufficient for all the parties to merely ‘note’ the findings of this report with Saudi Arabia even threatening to block the discussion if any advancements made any further in order to adopt the change of word. It should also be noted that Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest profitable oil firm.
This raises one concern that if the report isn’t just ‘welcomed’ with a stronger language, how will the worldwide emissions be lowered with weaker actions to such an extent so that global warming is halted to 1.5°C by 2020.
As the first week of the conference has ended, attempts at the 24th Conference of Parties have failed to recognize and adopt the 1.5°C IPCC report till now. Climate scientist, Masson-Delmotte says, “A 1.5°C and a 2°C worlds are very different in terms of mean climate, extremes, sea level rise, and climate-related risks, with the emergence of climate change hotspots challenging basic water, food, economic security and the risk of irreversible loss of wildlife.” Now, the question is how much worst we are willing to let it get, and that will the real policies and law changes ever occur.
Climate change is definitely in the interests of no one and the short-term profits are more likely to cause such long-term damages that will probably leave no chances for the situation of the globe to get back to normal. Either industrial, political and ideological interests have to be compromised or the near-future of the globe. A stronger response to this global threat of warming will commence from stronger statements that will direct the world leadership towards carrying out many stronger actions simultaneously.
Politicians/political leaders, senators, ministers, bureaucrats, civil servants, diplomats, and all the policy makers who deny science at the cost of the most vulnerable today will be remembered in the history for their callous actions due to their shortsightedness and complete disregard for the human lives.
After two days of hopping between planes, trains, and automobiles (oh my!), I arrived at our hotel in Tarnowskie Góry on Saturday, December 1 and slept a hearty ten hours or so. My body seemed to be preparing itself for the eat, sleep, COP schedule that the following week would bring. Surely enough, I was getting ready at 5:30 and found my way to the venue at about 8:30, where I submitted myself to TSA-esque security for another time and got my shiny new NGO (non-governmental organization) Observer badge. As I was badged with the American Chemical Society, there would be certain restrictions for my access throughout the week. Many negotiation meetings are closed to observers and certain events released a limited number of tickets for each NGO constituency. The American Chemical Society is a member of the Research and Independent NGOs constituency, so it was these meetings where tickets were distributed, by interest and then by lottery. On the first day, tickets were required for the 1st plenary meeting of the COP, which was the first event I attended thanks to the large number of tickets allotted to the constituency.
At the first COP plenary meeting, after some delays, things really got moving! That movement consisted of opening, dealing with administrative and procedural matters, and then closing, but hey, it’s something. The meeting was opened by the president of COP23, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, whose joviality and enthusiasm were matched only by the swiftness of his gavel in electing the COP24 President (Michał Kurtyka, State Secretary at the Polish Ministry of Energy) and adopting rules of procedure, the agenda, dates for future sessions: the works! The main goal of the first day’s plenaries was to organize work for the coming week, during which informal consultations, or meetings of parties to negotiate smaller issues with the guidance of a facilitator. These facilitators and the logistics of informal consultations and the meetings of contact groups, which coordinate linkages between related agenda items, were set at these first meetings. Informal consultations and contact groups were established for implementation, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), finance, and other topics. The WIM addresses loss and damage associated with climate change’s deleterious effects and promotes implementation of approaches to mitigate them. The COPs have historically started on Mondays, but the COP24 Presidency thought it useful this year to begin with much of the administrative work the day before on December 2.
Indeed, this work continued for the other bodies meeting at the Climate Change Conference. The plenary meeting immediately following was the Conference of the Parties (wait for it) serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol or CMP, for short. The Kyoto Protocol was the international treaty signed in 1997 which committed parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide, methane, dinitrogen monoxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride. It is notable for introducing the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR; get used to the abbreviations, it's their MO), a concept which is also vital to its successor, the Paris Agreement. CBDR acknowledges the priority that emissions reductions must be for all parties, but also recognizes differences in capacity, incorporating economic development and available resources into expectations for different countries. Capacity and capacity-building, referring to the resources and expertise made available by developed countries for use by developing nations, are a crucial part of the nationally determined nature of commitments made by parties to the Paris Agreement as well, and will feature a prominent role in negotiations at COP24. The CMP first plenary meeting also addressed largely procedural issues, but also made note of the status of the ratification of the Doha Amendment, which established a second round of targets for emissions reductions (122 countries so far of the 144 needed for it to enter into force – if you were wondering), and organized work on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI), compliance, the Adaptation Fund, among other smaller issues. The CDM allows for developing countries to receive certified emission reduction (CER) credits for projects that reduce – you guessed it – greenhouse gas emissions, which can then be traded and sold to meet targets under the Protocol. JI is another of the three flexibility mechanisms in the Protocol, in which Annex I countries (those with binding targets, consisting of industrialized countries and economies in transition) invest in projects in other Annex I countries instead of reducing emissions within their own domains. The Adaptation Fund provides financial support for projects that help developing countries deal with unmitigated effects of climate change and is funded by a 2% levy on CER credits issued for CDM projects as well as donations from Annex I countries, which has become the primary source of funding. Right near the conference center’s entrance, there was actually a large screen showing a desert landscape, which, upon donation to the Adaptation Fund by tapping your debit card to the chip reader, would transform into a lush rainforest, complete with pretty sounds and animations.
Following the CMP plenary was naturally the plenary for the treaty which followed the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, which was signed at COP21 in 2015. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA… yeah, they’re grasping for straws on this one). This plenary followed the COP approach to organization of work and election of officers, but also noted the status of ratification of the Paris Agreement, which stands at 184 countries of 195 signatories. The remaining nations were urged to expedite their domestic ratification processes, the effectiveness of such a plea remaining to be seen.
A little more exciting (for the climate policy enthusiast anyway) were the first plenary meetings of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA, pronounced “substah”), where the normal procedural matters were organized for work on the report of the Adaptation Committee, the report of the Executive Committee (~ExCom~) of the WIM, development and transfer of technologies, the joint annual report of the Technology ExCom and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), research and systematic observation, the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, and methodological issues relating to emissions from fuel used for international aviation and maritime transport. All of these matters proceeded fairly smoothly from first mention to lack of objection to gavel smack, as nothing was being agreed upon but for the organization of work. That is, until the last item on aviation and maritime emissions, because SBSTA was planning to hear interventions from two related intergovernmental organizations (IGOs): the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO, a pretty good acronym). But dear writer, you may be asking, who would have a problem with these two IGOs giving their views; they were invited after all? Well, you’d be surprised, unless you were thinking of Saudi Arabia, who raised a point of order multiple times insisting that no invitation had been given at the last SBSTA session for these IGOs to deliver their statements, in what would be a series of attempts by the kingdom representing the negotiating group of the Arab States to disrupt the input of non-party stakeholders. The chair insisted, with legal support from the UNFCCC Secretariat, that such an invitation had been standing and after about 25 minutes of back-and-forth on this topic, the clearly frustrated chair finally dismissed Saudi Arabia’s concerns and allowed the two IGOs to give their three-minute interventions, which described efforts to adopt standards for measurement of global aviation and ship emissions. Little pieces of drama like this were few and far between, but certainly had me on the edge of my seat as I wondered when parties’ stances would escalate from “some concerns” to “strong reservations”. How scandalous!
The day rounded off with a joint plenary meeting of the COP, CMP, CMA, SBSTA, SBI (Subsidiary Body on Implementation), and APA (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement). At this plenary, little business was heard other than to give the floor to countries for some introductory statements of no more than three minutes. Just kidding, pretty much everyone continued for six minutes or more, despite the chair’s minutely beeping. Here, I was introduced to many of the negotiating blocs that parties have sorted themselves into for climate talks: the Group of 77 (G77) & China, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), the Umbrella Group (don’t ask), the African Group, the Arab Group, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Like-Minded Developing Countries (not LDCs), the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), and the group of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China (BASIC), among several others. These negotiating groups often overlap but allow parties of similar interests to join together into a set of commonly agreed upon statements. This allows countries to deliver single interventions that capture the views of the group without each and every nation getting five minutes to say similar things. The interventions heard in the joint plenary seemed to represent a broad consensus on the urgency of action on climate change, especially in light of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the catastrophic effects of global temperature increases of only 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels (we are at 1.0 °C now and the Paris Agreement aims to keep warming below 2.0 °C). However, their specific statements represented disparate priorities on concepts like ambition, implementation, capacity, balance, equity, flexibility, and differentiation (CBDR) and it is these differences on specific policy that could dominate informal consultations in the following days.
The UNFCCC operates on a consensus basis for decision-making, meaning that all parties need to agree on a decision (or at least be satisfied enough not to object) before it can be enacted. This maximizes buy-in, but can also result in actions sufficiently diluted to please all parties. As the Paris Agreement prides itself on its universality and the concept of CBDR at least partially requires unanimous consent to comply, this consensus does help keep the treaty’s parties somewhat committed to emissions reductions, in a nationally determined form. The requirement to reach consensus is exactly why these issues are brought to informal consultations, where parties can work out draft documents and conclusions that disappoint everyone, but uniformly so. The oft-repeated theme to characterize this process is “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and whether anything can be agreed, we'll just have to wait and see.
As the last ballots are counted and the 2018 midterm elections come to an end, it is important to reflect on the many issues which candidates used to differentiate themselves and their visions of good government. Climate change and environmental policy more broadly form a policy question over which there is increasing polarization of opinion, and as such, those running for office have used such topics to propel themselves into the spotlight as well as to disparage their opponent’s views. Senate hopefuls in particular will need to address the scientific concerns of entire states, which can have highly variable weather patterns and sources of economic activity, presenting the need for a broader and more comprehensive approach to climate policy. To explore the role of climate change on this year’s senate race, let’s look at some of the states with the most competitive races and the expected climate impacts in those regions.
Senator-elect: Joe Manchin III (D)
Senator-elect: Rick Scott (R) or Bill Nelson (D)*
Senator-elect: Josh Hawley (R)
Senator-elect: Ted Cruz (R)
Senator-elect: Jacky Rosen (D)
The intersection of climate science and politics forms an illustrative relationship, given the role of elected officials in supporting the interests of their constituencies as well as the highly region-specific consequences global change will have on the various ecosystems of the United States. Climate change will affect all Americans, but the localized impacts on different communities form the basis upon which the members of those groups will assess the relative benefits and risk of government action and corporate regulation. When these new and returning Senators enter the 116th United States Congress next year, we will have the chance to witness how exactly they will address (or ignore) the impending threats climate change represents to each of their communities.
*As of the time of this writing, a recount is likely to be triggered in Florida’s Senate election.
Region-specific climate risks were adapted from information in the 2014 National Climate Assessment (U.S. Global Change Research Program).
“A thermometer isn’t Democrat or Republican. It won’t give you a different number depending on how you vote.”
– Dr. Katherine Hayhoe
As we have scientists on both the sides of climate change, it is essential to mention that the scientists on one of the sides that agree that climate change is real and global warming is being caused by the human activities, are more than 97% of the total climate scientists. As the scientific debates is over, the world leaders now must think of shaping a healthier and safer planet for our children and the future generations where they could live together in peace with trust, respect and mutual understanding.
The very basic understanding of climate change comes from the study of external (climate) forcing mechanisms or anthropogenic factors that are mainly contributing to the climate change such as the ‘greenhouse effect’, which is caused a result of the emissions of gases known as greenhouse gases — the gases that absorb and radiate thermal energy. The more concentrations of such gases in the atmosphere will surely be the cause of rise in average global temperature. Also, the energy from the Sun that serves as the primary source of energy for our planet’s climate is trapped with these gases in the planet’s atmosphere that continue to radiate heat in different directions within the atmosphere and so the heat is distributed all over. Carbon dioxide is, however, the most commonly produced greenhouse gas by human activities and its emission is the major cause of global warming today. According to the European Commission, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 40% since the industrialization began.
This rising temperature will not only result in heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, crop failures and diminishing Arctic ice but also the rising sea levels by melting glaciers and water expansion as the oceans get warmer leading to floods in parts of the world, and this will continue to happen if emissions keep going unchecked. It is, therefore, understandable and scientifically proven how the world is hurtling towards catastrophic environmental changes, which is why every bit of warming matters.
What are the causes of rising emissions and warming apparently?
The real political agenda.
Corporations and industrialist elite of the world earning millions and billions of dollars from fossil fuels annually would never allow their business to be affected in anyway and therefore, will continue to disapprove the concept of climate change. Some would argue that it is not caused by the human activities, while some would argue that we just cannot do anything about it and that it is unpreventable, but the science says the otherwise. Profits being made at the cost of the survival of species by a handful of people dominating the larger planet unfortunately are aimed at destroying the planet and its environment. It is as same as the profits being made by the manufacturers of lethal and devastating weapons protecting millions of dollars instead of millions of human beings while benefiting from bloody conflicts around the world.
Quite like many corporations and firms, there are states with their ruling elite refusing to compromise on their ‘interests’ and may publicly accept the climate change and its causes, but practically do little or nothing as that will affect their business. Thankfully, the historic Paris Agreement binds almost all the nations worldwide. Because, if the measures are not taken effectively today, each one will have to pay a heavy price tomorrow.
Sustainability is a blessing.
It has been observed that renewable energy has produced even more jobs than fossil fuel energy in the recent past while indicating the fast-growing energy sectors. There are better and eco-friendly options available for energy production today that must replace fossil fuel rapidly with the fast transition of the world’s economy otherwise leading to environmental destruction. According to gatesnotes.com while citing UNFCCC, European Commission and UNFAO, ‘if cattle were a country, they would rank third in greenhouse gases emissions’. The heatwaves and heavy rainfalls because of such emissions also threaten the agriculture worldwide while the chemical fertilizers being employed by farmers pose triple threat for the climate. Climate-friendly farming is one sustainable way to get rid of nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane with clever soil management to trap emissions.
Let’s joins hands and act!
People who understand have got to do two things:
India and Pakistan are natural and cultural allies, and anyone coming in the way of peace is a foe to both. Besides shared history of almost 5000 years and culture, the impact of climate change also remains common. In the late September this year, Foreign Minister-level talks between India and Pakistan on sidelines of UNGA session in New York were disrupted after the tensions escalated in the disputed Jammu & Kashmir territory followed by the exchange of harsh remarks from both sides of the border on Twitter and through number of press conferences. The recent standoff between the two Asian nuclear-armed neighbors pointing out nukes at each other has already put the region at the risk of an apocalypse. Today, the world is not 196 countries, it’s just one country itself. ‘Our problems’ are no more ‘ours’, ‘their problems’ are no more ‘theirs’. Wars only (temporarily) benefit those selling weapons and not any of the parties involved. Unfortunately, South Asia is also among of the world’s most disconnected regions with very low trade among the countries despite appreciable potential.
What are the problems being faced by a common South Asian today?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 out of the world’s most polluted cities are in South Asia. The continuous greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the reasons why the world is heading towards ‘global warming’. In 2015, about 1300 people died in southern Pakistan because of heatwaves according to the BBC World News while more than 1800 died in India’s deadliest heatwaves since 1979 as per a report by Quartz India. Hottest April day was recorded this year in Pakistan’s Nawabshah when the temperature exceeded 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The world’s climate continues to change, and hence, the situation continues to worsen.
What must be done?
Twitter war is a quiet impractical approach and will only lead to further tensions. The current situation is not helping either of the two countries in any way. Today, we must not talk about war, but nuclear disarmament of the planet. Our problems continue to increase, while we care less to resolve any of them through any means possible. The best way is to reach out to each other. We must talk about bridging the gaps between the countries through arts, science and literature. Dialogue is a way forward and is the best opportunity to resolve all the outstanding issues. Listen to others and have your say, and this will work. Criticism on the (regional) policies of a state by the other state is not unfavorable at all, but that must not bar the one criticizing from reaching out to the other being criticized.
Despite tensions, India has continued to easily grant visas to the Pakistani nationals for medical treatment and Pakistan has remained one of the largest markets for Bollywood, so to give coordination on climate change a chance must not be problem too. And, cooperation must not be limited to just the two countries.
Climate change knows no boundaries. Like international cooperation, regional cooperation to addressing the climate change and increasing pollution is the need of the time. The emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) can be reduced to new lower levels through partnerships, change in policies and literacy. It is possible to win without a war. The citizens of both the countries have the power to compel both the governments to continue to work together, and social media is one such platforms to voice.
Like European Union, Indian subcontinent can have its own emission standards endorsed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that define the acceptable limits of exhaust emissions for passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, trucks and buses, heavy goods vehicles and off-road vehicles. Each region in the world is supposed to respond to the climate change adequately in the best ways possible and this struggle in abiding by the historic Paris Agreement is therefore, divided among the regions of the world. Annual regional summits organized under the banner of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to address the issues relating elevating temperatures of the region and the world, will be a means of communication and dialogue between the governments and to monitor the progress on knocking down emissions and analyze if the targets previously identified have been achieved or not. Through cooperation, mechanisms can be set to transform the economy of the region into more sustainable and ecofriendly one.
Education is the primary step in addressing the issues, because issues can never be resolved without being properly identified. Also, very unfortunately, many South Asians are unaware of global warming and its detrimental effects on us. Universities in India and Pakistan should build awareness among the South Asian students and sponsor them for climate change literacy projects, have short courses/programs on climate change education for all and run green campaigns.
By setting examples, South Asia might also be able to motivate the neighboring Middle East. But, all this is not possible without mutual understanding through better communication. Rather than heavily spending on its military, every state should spend more on education, science, human development and sustainability. The leadership of today’s world must think of shaping a brighter future together so that they can leave a healthier and safer planet for the future generations of homo sapiens. Because, those who know more are responsible more.
Global warming is a global challenge and cannot be adequately addressed without global cooperation and global will that would require global efforts.
“There are two problems for our species’ survival – nuclear war and environmental catastrophe – and we are hurtling towards them. Knowingly.”
– Noam Chomsky
With just under a week until Christmas and Kwanza, and with Hanukah wrapping up, the season is very busy. Moreover, this time of year is a very wasteful one. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, American trash production increases 25%. At a time of increased consumption with increased focus on material goods, there is plenty of room to increase sustainability. Follow these tips when gifting for holidays and birthdays to help decrease waste and increase sustainability.
Purchasing handmade items from local vendors at craft fairs and local shops has many benefits. These goods do not have to travel as far to get to you and often have much less packaging, which can greatly reduce waste. You are able to purchase much more personal and unique gifts. Moreover, you are supporting your neighbors and your local economy by buying from local vendors and craftspeople.
A great way to avoid waste is to go for an alternative gift. Rather than focusing on a material item, look to gift an experience. A gift card or other material item is not difficult to come by. To make a gift even more special or unique, gift an experience, instead. Potential experiential gifts could include:
Gifts with Impact
Give a gift that will make a difference, larger than for just the recipient. Shop fair trade companies to ensure gifts were sourced responsibly. Or, take the money that you would have spent on a physical gift and make a donation in their name. Sponsor a child in a developing nation, adopt an endangered animal, or donate animals to a village. All of these gifts do much more than simply give someone a material item. They allow you to feel good about what your gifting and allow your recipient to feel the same.
Give Handmade and Homemade Gifts
Anybody can go to the store and buy a scarf with minimal effort. This year, make that scarf mean something more and make it yourself. If you're a creative person, paint a picture or some pottery, or write a poem. If you love to spend time in the kitchen, make someone a special meal or bake them their favorite dessert. All of these homemade and handmade items can mean so much more than a store-bought item and really show the person you gift it to that they mean a lot to you. (Bonus: homemade gifts are great for your budget!)
Now that you've got your lineup of sustainable gifts, how should you go about wrapping them? Try using alternative wrapping papers. Recycle newspaper or even magazines for the job. Save bags, boxes, ribbon, and tissue paper to reuse in future years. Try to find gift wrap that is made from reused materials. Try using cloth to wrap presents, or get cloth gift bags.
Thursday, November 16th was Climate Justice Day at COP23. I had the privilege to attend multiple events that focused on the effects of climate change on the vulnerable countries of the developing world, particularly the island states. With Fiji being the first small island developing state to hold the presidency of a COP, the issue of environmental justice has become even more prominent throughout this conference. Fiji’s leadership has brought attention to the small island developing states whose voices usually go unheard due to lack of representation. These nations contribute the least to climate change yet are most vulnerable to its effects, as they have less resources for adaptation.
Climate Justice Day also focused on the social and cultural dimensions of climate change and the human rights issue connected to it. Hearing from people from developing countries provided me with a different perspective on climate change. These people directly depend on the earth’s natural resources for survival in a way that is now distant to developed nations, giving them a greater appreciation for the environment. The current effects of climate change are already forcing them to confront the risks posed against their security and survival.
I was also able to attend a high level presidency event regarding the integration of human rights in climate action which sought to offer a people centered approach to climate change. This talk concluded solutions to climate change that were focused on improving the resilience of the most vulnerable countries and providing them with the resources necessary to adapt to its effects.
It is my last day at the UNFCCC 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23), and I was able to speak with a representative for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A noticeable trend at this COP is the importance of protecting food resources and agricultural sustainability, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The FAO has done a tremendous amount of research on food security and this cannot be discussed without addressing how climate change has impacted this issue.
Climate and Food Security
The extreme weather patterns cause land degradation, which is a major food security issue. Africa and Southeast Asia have been hit the worst, and reported by the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, “climate disaster displaces one person per second”. Now more than ever, action needs to be taken to preserve food and agricultural sustainability.
In just one year, from 2015 to 2016, the amount of unnourished people rose by 38 million. The FAO reported that 26% of the damage and loss due to extreme weather from 2005 to 2015 was agriculture. Among the millions of people affected in these small island nations, farmers and livestock keepers are most vulnerable. The extreme weather patterns in recent years, has caused drought and heat waves, which affects both the feed and forage. As climate change causes more catastrophic damages, action must be taken now.
The FAO has taken swift action to combat climate change and ensure agricultural sustainability. Throughout the past few years they have begun helping nations set up “climate-resilient” systems and restore degraded land. While the FAO has stepped up to combat these issues, the rest of the world should as well. Hunger is only one of the many issues facing this world and with the growing catastrophic events due to climate change, it is important now more than ever to make a conscious effort to assist these small island nations.
Blog Source: "FAO's Work on Climate Change - United Nations Climate Change Conference 2017"
For more information on this issue visit http://www.fao.org/home/en/
Thousands of people visited Bonn for the 23rd Conference of Parties UN Climate Change Convention. With so many people in one place attending an event on climate change, it is obvious that the conference itself should be sustainable. But what is sustainability and how can such a large conference achieve the status of being a sustainable conference? Sustainability involves exercising practices that ensure we are not using more resources than we can generate for the next generation. To highlight how COP23 is working towards improved sustainability, walking tours have been offered, illustrating the many sustainability initiatives.
A Climate Neutral Conference
Prior to attending the COP, every individual involved was given the option of paying to compensate their travel, making their trip to the COP carbon neutral. This was offered as a complimentary action to one already being taken. The Ministry of the Environment is working to compensate all emissions associated with the conference. To do so, after the end of the conference, the state will be collaborating with scientists to estimate total emissions. The ministry will then be compensating the travel of all participants (even those who chose to compensate for their travel independently) as well as all other sources of carbo0n emissions associated with the conference. The funds to offset the emissions will have a priority of being designated to the protection of small island developing states (SIDs).
With people from all over the world, it was important to be inclusive in food and drink offerings while still being mindful of ensuring food was sourced as sustainably as possible. This is done through which foods are sourced and where they come from. A breakdown of food at the COP includes food that is:
Waste Management and Minimization
For those from places that do not separate their waste, a color coding system that included labels was used in order to separate the waste into what could be recycled or repurposed, what could compost, and what could not be salvaged. Additionally, there were many efforts made through catering to cut down on waste as much as possible. Food leftover from our plates went to be converted to biofuel. Food that went unserved was repurposed the next day. This included using fruits and vegetables at the smoothie bar the next day and turning extra white rice into fried rice. Additionally, unused food at the end of the conference was donated to area food charities. Furthermore, coffee grounds and tea bags went to organic waste. A final detail in waste management is that the waste bags used can be reused and recycled.
Tapping Into Sustainable Solutions
Each participant of COP23 was given their own reusable water bottle. There were stations throughout both zones allowing many opportunities to refill each day. Last year, the average participant used about 4 disposable cups a day for water. By using the refillable and reusable water bottles, it is estimated that over 300,000 disposable cups were saved.
The ministry and organizers of the conference have provided all attendees with many options for eco-friendly travel. First and foremost, anybody with credentials allowing them into the conference zones also gets a sticker for their badge allowing them to have free local and regional public transportation, making getting to the conference itself much easier and cleaner than using taxis or personal vehicles. Once at the conference, there are many options available to get between zones. There is a fleet of 45 e-vehicles, comprised of cars and shuttle buses powered by electricity and hydrogen. There is also a solar powered bus. Furthermore, there are 650 bikes available for use moving between zones, and a lovely walking trail through the park leading from Bula Zone to Bonn Zone.
Bula Zones 2 and 3 as well as the Bonn Zone were made from temporary tent-like structures. These structures were built above the land (using a stilt-like system) in order to minimize damage to biomass. This results in much less of the land temporarily built on being damaged. Furthermore, all of the furniture and even the plants were rented, allowing them to be reused at future conferences and events. In the hallways of the temporary zones, carpet tiles were used. This allowed only the small sections of the flooring that were truly damaged to be disposed of, while preserving the good carpet for future use.
UNFCCC events aimed to have a significant cut in paper use. Schedules were not distributed, but were displayed on CCTVs throughout the venues and on the UNFCCC Negotiator app. Additionally, there were 9000 Poken devices available to attendees. You are able to tap your Poken device against another person's Poken in order to digitally transfer documents. You are then able to use the USB on the device to load the PDFs onto your computer. Furthermore, many pavilions utilized QR codes to share information. Finally, all paper provided by the Secretariat is Blue Angel certified, meaning that it has been certified as an environmentally friendly paper option.
Certifiably Sustainable - A Job Well Done
The many efforts taken by the hosts and organizers of COP23 were in an attempt to leave a legacy with this COP, aiming to become the first certifiably sustainable COP. On Friday 17 November, it was announced that COP23 successfully met this goal. EMAS certified the conference, the first COP to have this honor. COP23 has set the precedent and left its legacy in Bonn, Germany and hopefully this will continue at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
Room to Improve
Although there were many measures taken to make COP23 sustainable and the actions of the organizers were recognized and rewarded with the certification by EMAS, there is still room for improvement at future COPs. First and foremost, while there are many actions being taken to reduce paper, there still need to be more. Pavilions were advised to avoid bringing much paper, but there were still many that had enormous quantities of paper and that even brought mini books to give out. While I understand the desire not to become "police" of the paper, I believe that it is important to instill the desire to preserve paper at the pavilions, especially seeing as the pavilions are where you find many of the more outspoken advocates for the climate. Additionally, seeing the great success that came with implementing re-usable water bottles, it may be beneficial to expand the program in future years to add reusable hot beverage travel cups to further decrease waste. It may also be wise to cease the sale of disposable water bottles seeing as everybody has initial access to the reusable option. Finally, measures need to be taken to improve sustainability participation in delegate zones. It was noted that the Bula Zone (the zone where negotiations were held) had poorer performance on using reusable drinking vessels and properly separating waste. With many of those in the Bula (delegate) Zone being the ones who are arguing and negotiating these incredibly important climate-related matters, it is crucial to get them involved in these simple, every day measures to be more sustainable.
Thursday, November 16, 2017 is Education Day at COP23. Education is a powerful tool to combat climate change. The more educated individuals, the stronger the fight against climate change.
Recycle & Reuse
The atmosphere and culture of COP23 is a prime example. Each participant is provided a reusable water bottle that can be refilled at various water fountains. The slogan “Healthy People Tap Water” can be found on many of these bottles. By providing reusable water bottles over “570,000 disposable cups are saved”.
There are many coffee bars spread throughout the conference. There is silverware that is compostable and the to-go coffee cups are recyclable. Reusable coffee mugs are available as well. A simple solution to the high consumption of coffee and silverware.
Sustain & Reduce
The food options highlight sustainability and agricultural mindfulness. All of the cafeteria meals provide options that are 60% vegetarian food, 100% certified meat and fish, 50% organic or 20% regional. Again, highlighting eating habitats that benefit the environment and the human body. As for transportation, public transit and bicycles are available. All of the “shuttles are electric and there are over 600 bikes free of charge”.
Information provided by COP23 signs in Bula Zone 1-3 and the Bonn Zone