Experiencing the ’18 UN Climate Change Conference, COP24 Katowice

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (otherwise known as COP24) taking place in Katowice, Poland this year.

My experience

Each day, I’ll be writing on Medium to share thoughts about what I’m learning, experiencing, and thinking.

Disclaimer that these will be my own opinions and experiences, not necessarily the objective truth.

Overall thoughts and learnings from the conference.

Each individual day:

What’s going on & my experience

There is a near-infinite amount of info that I could include in relation to why this conference exists, the history, climate science, the important topics this year, etc.

I have spent the past 3 months preparing and still only understand a fraction of everything related to both the conference and climate change.

I’m going to include a brief overview as to what’s happening and why, but if you have more questions or want to learn more, there are awesome resources online, and/or feel free to reach out.

Brief overview

*Starting from ground zero

In the 90s, the topic of climate change was becoming increasingly popular, largely due to emerging science showing the impacts and potential future consequences of increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. In 1992, there was an Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was formed officially in 1994.

The point of the UNFCCC is to help countries rally together to fight against climate change and protect the future of the earth. As part of the UNFCCC there is an annual conference called the Conference of the Parties (COP) where pretty much every country around the world comes together to negotiate agreements, texts, issues and to push each other to treat the climate better.

Imagine you’re in 1990 and there are these scary implications of changes in the climate and zero organization for making things better. What would you do? Try to create an organization, get every country to participate, figure out ways to hold other countries accountable, and so on. That’s pretty much what has happened over the past 25 years. It’s been a slow, often painful, process, but the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a huge step.

The first COP (COP1) was in Berlin in 1995. Since then, the conference has taken place each year in a different location (some places have been repeated). Among the outcomes from these COPs, the first widespread notable accomplishment was the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted at a COP3 in Kyoto in 1997 and it was put into action in 2005 (I know, long gap).

More recently, the Paris Agreement came out of COP21 in 2015 which has been the most effective, comprehensive effort to combat climate change yet.

There’s tons of stuff that has happened in between all these years, countries around the world have differing stances, roles, and responsibilities and the topic of ‘climate change’ encompasses a wide variety of actions, ideas, and topics.

Now, we (as a collective) are at COP24 in Katowice. There are many goals of this conference, but in short, parties are continuing to put the Paris Agreement into place, hold each other accountable, keep things fair, and push each other towards greater ambition (aka emissions reductions).

Why am I here and what am I doing?

I was fortunate to get into a class at my school, Washington University in St. Louis, that received passes to send us to the conference. So, all semester, I have been learning about international climate change and now I’m here for the first week of two (other classmates of mine will be here the second week).

Since there are such a wide variety of topics and happenings (helping coastal countries prepare for future potential flooding, holding countries accountable for their emissions, tracking country emissions, allocating financial resources to poorer countries, considering gender & indigenous implications for climate change, etc) I am specifically following the topics: NDCs and mitigation.

NDC stands for Nationally Determined Contributions, which is a key part of the Paris Agreement where each country is responsible for setting their own reduction goals, in the form of a published ‘NDC’ doc. Every country has already submitted one (you can find them here), but there is much work to be done. Mitigation just refers to reducing emissions in general (which NDCs are a key part of).

So, throughout the week, I’ll be following the next steps towards supporting the creation of more robust, effective, comprehensive, and fair NDCs for each country as the collective works to reduce worldwide emissions in under to avoid a 2 degree C increase in temperature from pre-industrial levels (and ideally sub 1.5).

I’m here to follow my issues but also learn as much as I can, meet people, and soak up what is happening here for my own knowledge/experiences and to share with others.

Looking forward to the conference, the conversations, and the writing to come :)

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reach out to chat more or if you have any questions — noadelstein@gmail.com