The Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, started on Monday. The aim of this conference is to convert points integrated in the Paris Agreement into concrete measures. Master’s student Iris van Hal is attending the event.
© Tessa Louwerens
The Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate change is held in a different country each year. The aim of the conference is to make decision on the execution of climate policies. This conference organised by the United Nations (UN) in southern Poland is the twenty-fourth in its line and will last two weeks. Some twenty thousand people from around the globe will attend the conference.
‘I expect it to be very formal, with a lot happening behind closed doors’, says Van Hal, who is following the master’s programmes Forest and Nature Conservation and Development and Rural Innovation, and who is in Poland to help as a volunteer. ‘As a student, you are not allowed to attend the official activities, nor are you allowed to get any coffee for Trump, unfortunately. I am mainly going to feel the atmosphere; I expect it will be very inspiring and energetic. I will also attend some side-events, such as film screenings, to still actively contribute and discuss the topics that are reviewed there.’
Last Sunday, about 65,000 people joined a protest in Brussels in response to the international climate conference. It was the largest climate march in Belgium to date. The demonstrators demanded that the Belgian politicians be more committed to the national climate policy.
The last time the COP was held in Poland, in 2013, there was a demonstration there as well, and green organisations like WWF left the discussions. ‘I don’t expect that to happen now’, Van Hal says, ‘they really need to talk this time. It is important that proper agreements are made, especially regarding the appointment of controversial presidents in Central and South America [like Brazilian president Bolsonaro, who wants to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, ed.]. Moreover, people still worry about the impact of climate change, and continuous monitoring is required, obviously.’
Each year, the UN climate conference evokes discussions, such as the one on the subject of the polluting flights of all participants who come from all over the world. Iris thinks these flights cannot be avoided right now. ‘It is important to gather. I think the COP can better focus on improving the event itself, because there is probably still a huge wastage of resources. I noticed that during the Zero Hunger Conference in Orion as well, while volunteering. There was a gigantic buffet. I understand they do not want to lack in anything, but they could have said: “to prevent food waste, we acquired a bit less; it is possible for some dishes to run out”. Or they could try to make the conference centre climate neutral, or have the participants reflect on their own ecological footprint. But perhaps they already take all these measures at the COP in Katowice; I will see for myself.’
How will Iris travel to the conference? ‘Do we really have to discuss this’, she asks with a chuckle. ‘Put that in the article, the readers will understand. They came up with a word for this, which might just win the Dutch Word of the Year: “vliegschaamte” (flight shame).’