The UN Climate Change Conference began yesterday in Katowice, Poland and will run through December 14. This conference serves as the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol; third part of the first session of the Conference of the Parties to the Paris Agreement; 49th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice; 49th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation; and 7th part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement. The entire conference serves as a means of getting together and looking at where improvements have been made in relation to climate change as well as planning for future improvements and implementation of the existing Agreements. This meeting of course takes place with a United States that is removing itself from the Paris Agreement while under President Trump, going so far as to be the only country out of the G20 countries to refuse to agree to climate language in the 2018 communique. Instead, the U.S. reiterated its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement “and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment.”
The site of the Conference provides an interesting backdrop to meetings on climate change. Katowice is located in the south of Poland. The area is known for its rich coal reserves, and coal mining is still a well-respected, although declining, occupation in the area. The World Health Organization considers Katowice to be one of the 50 worst polluted cities in the EU and black snow and acidic rain were common in the area before the fall of communism. Coal is also one of the fossil fuels responsible for increased carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.
Anyone can follow along with the events of the conference, even from afar. The conference is offering a live webcast as well as virtual participation through social media. Social media accounts are available in English as well as Spanish, French, and German.
The Conference itself is taking efforts to be sustainable. For instance, all conference locations will have separate recycling containers for plastic, metal, paper, and glass. The virtual options available help also reduce the need for some participants to fly to Poland in order to participate in the events. Digital screens and computers will be available so that documents can be downloaded rather than printed and any paper used at the conference is made without chlorine. Public transportation in Katowice and surrounding areas will be made free for participants during the conference in order to reduce the use of individual transportation. Water dispensers, rather than individual water bottles, will be available throughout the conference so that participants can use reusable bottles for their water. Participants are being asked to compensate for any emissions they contribute to in attending the conference through the UNFCC’s Climate Neutral Now initiative.
At today’s opening session, Sir David Attenborough announced the launch of a new campaign to allow individuals around the world to unite and battle climate change. The ActNow.bot is a chat bot through Facebook messenger that suggests everyday actions that can be taken to help preserve the environment. Daily schedules will be made available the night before. The high level segments will take place on Monday December 3, Saturday December 8, Tuesday December 11, and Wednesday December 12. The closing plenaries will take place on Friday December 14.