Thursday, November 9, 2017

Just a typical day at the COP

COP meetings can be overwhelming, even for those of us who have been coming for many years. There are many negotiating tracks that one can follow, a lot of jargon, and way too many acronyms. And just when you begin to learn the proverbial ropes, a new agreement or workstream comes along with another set of vocabularies to learn!

There are daily constituency meetings; my mornings typically start with the Research and Independent NGOs meeting since I serve on the RINGOs steering committee. It is a chance for participants to review what is going on in the various tracks that they are following; a "Cliffs Notes" version of what is progressing (or not). This is helpful for those who cannot be everywhere at once or who aren't inclined to sit through too many lengthy negotiations sessions that often move at a snail’s pace. At the end of these meetings, it is often a good time to check in with students from Moravian’s delegation. Today, the researchers from the U.S. – many of them representing the next generation of scientists and lawyers who will work in the environmental field – gathered to discuss an upcoming meeting with the U.S. delegation (i.e. from the State Department of the only country that is now publicly pulling away from the Paris Agreement). Oh, what an interesting conversation that will be!

Three women in STEM and from the Rocky Mountain Science and Sustainability Network
For those of us who are not policy wonks, there is much more than negotiations to follow. The side-events are a lot like going to a professional conference with panels and presentations on a wide range of topics. For instance, today happens to be “Business and Industry Day” at COP23. Yesterday was “Young and Future Generations Day.” Since we will be discussing corporate responses to climate change in our course soon, I ventured into a session entitled Transforming the Industry: The Case for Transparency and Ambition in Markets and NDCs. (See what I mean about jargon and acronyms?) The session was billed as a time to  
"Discuss the chances and challenges energy intensive industry is facing on the way to GHG-neutrality; Identify how the framework and instruments of the Paris Agreement can support industry on its way to become GHG-neutral by 2050; showcasing (inter)national initiatives that contribute thereto."
I listened to information about carbon pricing, the company Bosch’s story (or propaganda, depending on your perspective), the ability to purchase certificates (carbon offsets), and ways to become more energy efficiency. Yawn. The business world, like many scientists, needs to learn to be a bit less dull.

A typical session audience




Next, I was going to go to a session titled Hacking climate change: The digital future of climate leadership, innovation and impact sponsored by Microsoft and interestingly the South Pole Group! The room was standing room only, so I moved to another session entitled Achieving Socially and Ecologically Beneficial Renewable Energy Systems through Community Engagement in part because one of the sponsors was the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (Planet Pledge initiative). The content is worthy of a separate blog post, but in short, the session was about how the demand for rare metals to support renewable energy technology and the computerized energy efficiency systems is creating new ecological destruction and having negative social consequences for many in the developing world (think conflict minerals). The problem of climate change is complex, but so are potential solutions.

Besides the negotiations and side events, many countries have pavilions where they offer their own programming along with some cultural flare, and there are countless exhibitions from NGOs, universities, think tanks, and other organizations. Having come to these events for many years, I enjoy wandering around reconnecting with interesting friends from around the world, including people I met at the community-based adaptation conference in Uganda last summer from Bangladesh and Zanzibar, representatives from Mediators Beyond Borders International, faculty from other campuses, etc. I had two back-to-back conversations with people who had been in Svalbard this past summer! It is, ironically, a network of friends with a high carbon footprint from travel. Tonight, I will have dinner with a French glaciologist who studies in Scotland and does research in polar regions. And that is a typical day at a COP meeting: exhausting, but never dull.


Some scenes from around the COP:


Yes, those are lights made from hollowed out fish!



The last 4 images are from the Fiji Pavilion - the official host of COP23 even if we are in Bonn



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