Halfway Through Week 2

When the meetings for the day finally began, Danica, Ben, and I first attended the “High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance.” We first heard from the president of COP 19, Marcin Korolec, as he opened the session to welcome everyone attending and explain the importance of making progress at this conference rather than just wait until COP 20 in Rio or another date. The keynote address was then presented by Ban Ki-moon (pictured below), the United Nations Secretary General. It was really interesting to hear him speak in person about the urgency of the climate situation. Many other nations spoke during this dialogue as well, and a recurring theme was the urgency of the climate change situation. However, there were few suggestions presented about the how to solve this urgent problem. Most of the attention was placed upon financial mechanisms, which was what we expected.


After we left the dialogue, we decided to visit the pavilions of China and Norway. Over the past several days, we have had a significant amount of success learning about varying perspectives on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Programme of Activities (PoAs) by stopping by various exhibit booths for different nations and organizations as well as the national pavilions. It was also inspiring to be surrounded people who make such important decisions regarding the future of environmental policy. I now have a greater respect for the process of environmental policy implementation because I am realizing how difficult and confusing the process can be at times.

Danica, Ben, and I then ate lunch and then headed to the Media Center to learn more about Bangladesh and the CDM. We ended up learning about Bangladesh over a second lunch, but it was fascinating how the perspective of a least-developed country (LDC) on CDM varies significantly from that of a developed country.

It is a very interesting dynamic having the high-level officials present at the conference. On Monday, the high-level segment of the conference had not yet started, so everyone seemed relatively relaxed, and there was not a sense of urgency. However, yesterday and today, the tension significantly increased. There are now many meetings not open to observers, and the security and protesting has increased. It seems that people feel that they need to accomplish something in the next two days, but minimal progress has been made so far.  Hopefully the final days of the conference will produce some results!

Tourist Note:  Last night, we all went to dinner at Bierhalle Browar Restauracja, a restaurant recommended as one of the places a traveler to Warsaw should visit. It was a strange meal. Nothing was necessarily wrong, but our food seemed obscure to our American palates. Some of the food was unseasoned, and there was a failed attempt at Mexican food because of the addition of large quantities of barbeque sauce. We all left confused why this restaurant was so highly recommended.

Bree, Brendan, Ben, and Danica also were able to go to the Warsaw Uprising Museum before the conference started one day. This museum explains the Polish uprisings that took place during the German occupation of the country.

Monday Night and Some Tuesday Highlights

Hi everyone!

Yesterday was the first day of COP19. There is an incredible amount of activity here at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. Here is a quick overview of some of the most interesting and controversial events from yesterday and today. Blog posts focused on specific issues and impressions are in the works!

Last night we attended  a reception at the Warsaw University Library. There were appearances from Hanna Gronkeiwicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw; Christiana Figueres UN Climate Secretary and Marcin Korolec, President-Designate of the Conference and Polish Minister of the Environment (all pictured below).


The library was a stunning venue for the reception and the Polish government arranged a variety of music and entertainment acts for the evening.


One of the musical acts that performed last night was The Recycling Band who play instruments made from recycled materials.


Check out this video on how they have made their instruments and you can listen to some of their songs here.

This morning, we all attended the Youth in Non-Governmental Organizations (“YOUNGO”) meeting. YOUNGO is very interested in seeing a meaningful agreement come out of the negotiations that is calculated to significantly reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuels. Some of the NGOs represented are: Connected Voices, Sustain US, Young Friends of the Earth, Global Voices and [Earth in Brackets].

There are several working groups operating as part of YOUNGO, including Loss & Damage, Fossil Fuels, Adaptation, Intergenerational Equity, Capacity Building, Finance, and Land Use, Agriculture & Forestry. You can follow YOUNGO through their facebook group.

At the YOUNGO meeting this morning, Sustain US and Climate Action Network (“CAN”) announced that they would engage in a solidarity fast to show their support for the Philippines. This announcement spurred a discussion of possible solidarity fast by YOUNGO, but no agreement was reached on the parameters for how such a fast would be conducted. Sustain US and CAN started their fast this afternoon and it remains unclear whether they will be engaged in a complete fast or whether they will solely be fasting during the hours that COP is running each day. Follow Sustain US on twitter to see photos of the action and CAN’s blog to stay updated.

Jake and I went to an informal consultation on CDM modalities and procedures this morning. We heard from the European Union, Togo, Indonesia, South Africa, China, Brasil, Malawi, Switzerland, Lebanon, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Egypt on what elements of the CDM they think should be reviewed and revised and whether new sections should be added.

CDM discussion

The discussion yielded a lot of interesting ideas and perspectives, but ultimately the parties were asked to focus on whether they actually be expected to create new modalities and procedures in Warsaw or merely guidance for future work. Looking at the schedule for the next two weeks, the CDM group realized they would only meet two other times, once for 45 minutes and once for an hour and half. It was clear how difficult it is to accomplish substantive goals like revising modalities and procedures during the Conference of the Parties itself. Some delegates suggested that an electronic working group be created where parties can write proposals and new language. The co-chairs facilitating the session agreed to try to find time to arrange an additional meeting in the hopes that some substantive progress can be made. However, it was noted that it would have been best if new or revised sections were drafted ahead of the conference that could be re-worked and potentially adopted over the course of the next two weeks. The parties also discussed the possibility of meeting informally if additional time could not be scheduled.

Informative blogs and twitter feeds to follow:

TckTckTck is an alliance of 400 NGOs: https://twitter.com/tcktcktck

Adopt a Negotiator follows negotiators from several key countries: http://adoptanegotiator.org/

[Earth in Brackets] is a group of students from the College of the Atlantic:  https://twitter.com/earthinbrackets

International Youth Climate Movement: https://twitter.com/IYCM

Keeping up with all things COP

If our blog interests you and you want more information….here are links to additional sources:

http://unfccc.int/2860.php – The main conference webpage – you can see the meeting agendas as well as live and on-demand webcasts.  When it is posted – take the time to view the Philippine statement during the COP Opening plenary.  It is poignant and a good reminder of why everyone is here.  It was at 12:25 PM – which is I think about 2 hours into the plenary. Update:  It is now posted.  The Philippine statement is at 1:51:25. http://unfccc4.meta-fusion.com/kongresse/cop19/templ/play.php?id_kongresssession=6852&theme=unfccc 

http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop19/  – the IISD provides daily reporting of the conference events and select side events.

I conclude with a photo I took last night in Park Ujazdowski.  Warsaw is a beautiful city and a welcoming host.

Park Ujazdowski

Exploring Warsaw and Preparing for Day 1

I have been in Warsaw for two days now, and wow! It is an amazing city. Both yesterday and today I took went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city, and was able to visit the Palace of Science and Culture, the Royal Castle, Oldtown, the National Gallery of Art (a contemporary art museum), and a variety of shops and parks! The city has a rich history, especially surrounding the Second World War and the communist takeover of Poland in the latter half of the 20th century. Many of the buildings are characterized by either being the original buildings or being re-buildings of structures blown up by the Nazis during the war. Stalin was a major influence as well, and there are many memorials constructed to celebrate the Russians– the Palace of Science and Culture in fact was a “gift” from Soviet Russia to Communist Poland. A significant portion of Poles dislike this building because they view it as a sign of Soviet control, yet is still stands as the tallest building in Warsaw.

Tomorrow the COP19 conference begins, and the knowledge and background we have been preparing all semester is put to the test. (For more information on what COP is, please visit unfccc.int) We have been setting up our schedule, and tomorrow we will be attending the Opening Plenary from 10-1 pm (Warsaw time), and following that will be going to a session “What to Expect in Warsaw from the Negotiations”. We hope to explore the exhibits during the afternoon, and hopefully make contact with people interested in sharing their knowledge with our delegation.

I am part of the research team working on the implementation of REDD+ (visit theredddesk.org) in the Amazonian basin.

Here are some pictures of Warsaw! Warsaw - Rachel

Warsaw2 - Rachel Warsaw 3 - RachelWarsaw 4 - RachelWarsaw 5 - Rachel

Headed to Warsaw and COP 19

It is hard to believe that I am actually on my way to Warsaw to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP).  A delegation from Washington University has attended the past several COPs thanks to our amazing students, current and past, who obtained delegate status.  This year I am privileged to attend with nine of our students:  Caitlin McCoy, Caitlin Lee, Rachel Westrate, Jake Lyonfields, Danica Yu, Breanna Swenson, Maggie Beetstra, Ben Perlman and Brendan McIntyre.  Megan Odenthal and Emily Kent are supporting us from St. Louis.

What is in store for us in Warsaw?  That is a good question.  While we are there the students, working in two groups, will be focusing on research projects.   One group will be focusing on how Program of Activities (PoAs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) can be made more effective (implemented), actionable (moved through process), and just (ethical for all parties involved).  The second student group will focus on specific countries from the Amazon region and their participation at COP 19 in Warsaw. Their goal is to determine how delegations and representatives from NGOs from these UN member countries navigate the conference and advance their objectives.   Both groups will be looking for ways that their topics relate to St. Louis and Wash U and ways that they can bring the impacts and discussions from Warsaw back home.

My goal is to support the students as well as investigate issues being discussed that relate to challenges the St. Louis region is and will face as well as what links there may be to research being conducted on campus.

So stayed tuned…we will be posting at least one daily blog….highlighting the events of our day and progress on research.

On a somber note, as this COP begins in the wake of the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan we are all reminded of the significance and real implication of the negotiations.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted in so many ways by the storm.