Today I attended a showcase highlighting the work of the Climate Neutral Now award winners as part of the 2019 UN Global Climate Action Awards. It was a fun event and one that drove home for me the importance of engaging corporations (and communities, and cities, and all levels of sub-national governments) in the fight to stay below +1.5. Some of the really transformative work is being done by companies, and the four winners of this award really showcased some excellent initiatives. Four organizations won the award (video can be seen here: https://unfccc.int/climate-action/momentum-for-change/climate-neutral-now).
The representative from MAX Burgers went first who talked about their Climate Positive menu. He showed the analysis their company did on when their emissions was coming from (surprising no-one, a lot cam from beef) and how they tackled reaching 0 emissions. Their goal was to introduce more plant based food options and have every other meal not have beef (there were other things as well). He was asked about pushback to the menu and he responded by saying that there was some pushback, but also said that in general people have been very responsive and supportive. He felt that the marketing the change in a positive light (Climate Positive Menu) helped.
Apple went next, and I was skeptical. The organization has several environmental initiatives, but the representative specifically talked about their transition to 100% renewable energy at their sites. The speaker gave some interesting stats, including that Apple was responsible for 0.1% of all global emissions. The company set a goal to have all Apple owned operations powered with 100% renewable energy and generate a total of 4 GWt by 2020. They are investing in their own projects and doing it as locally as possible, which creates jobs in the areas where the facilities are. They met these goals early and have no switched to help their suppliers meet the goal of using 100% renewable energy for the production of the materials Apple uses. I found this really positive, because they not only made this demand but also helped these supplier make the energy transition. The combination of adding pressure and then providing resources and support is powerful, and corporations with the influence and money like Apple should be doing this work. They added another 1 GWt of energy production through this. I felt strangely proud to have all three of my Apple devices with me during this talk…
Natura, the 4th largest cosmetic company in the world, went next. They talked about packaging and materials. The thing I took away most here was how they have partnered with the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon to use local ingredients for their cosmetics, which supports the livelihoods of the people and provides a local and sustainable supply chain.
The final presentation was from Infosys, a global tech services and consulting company headquartered in India. There path to zero emission used a combination of energy efficiency (highly efficient new buildings and deep retrofitting of old buildings), transition to renewable, and off-setting. I rolled my eyes a bit on off-setting, but the presenter impressed me because all of their offsets have been done at the local level. They invented off-sets that engaged and supported the local community and improved the general quality of life for the people living there. This is the kind of off-setting that I can get behind!
In total, I found this event very inspiring! There is some much positive and transformative work going on, and it is good to be reminded especially when it feels like the policy makers are not acting fast enough.
What a day it was today! I am sure Isabel and Nancy will post more about some of the actions going on, but I am going to focus on an event I went to today related to Gender Day. I went to what I think was the most moving, impactful event I’ve attended across three COPs, which was titled Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change. It was a panel of six grassroots and indigenous women leaders from three different continents that are at the forefront of the climate movement. After some powerful opening remarks from the moderator (Osprey Orielle Lake) the conversation was opened to each panelist who shared their person story about why they have engaged in the climate battle. There was so much passion and fortitude in the stories and the whole room was captivated. The prevailing theme was that women have knowledge and power that men don’t have, and that their knowledge and efforts can (and should) be harnessed to help shape policies that can be impactful in addressing climate change. Many of the women talked about how it was not only the western civilization they were battling, but also the men in their own groups whom they needed to work against. Basically, these women have struggled against the patriarchy from all fronts. When they started talking about men, and specifically how men do not take their contribution seriously, I looked around the room to see what other men were present. It was pretty sad, frankly. Less than 10% of the audience was male and I was within the top 3 in terms of age. That made me sad, and angry. I speculate that a lot of men stay away from events like this because they think it is women’s issues and it makes them uncomfortable. Whenever I attend an event where a woman speaks, especially about climate, I am moved. I appreciate that I cannot know what it means to live in her shoes, but I can certainly hope to walk with her and learn from her. I challenge men to walk into a space dominated by women the next time they have the opportunity and sit and listen. Don’t speak, don’t offer your opinion. Listen. Learn.
I cannot hope to recount each of the stories from the women, they were too personal and frankly I was too emotional to take excellent notes. But I can share some of the key take aways/quotes.
We will not get out of this crisis with weak policies. – Nina Gualinga
It is not only a struggle for water and air but it is also a struggle to change the patriarchal and capitalist structure – Ruth Nyambura
Women are the emotional center of the family and community, and we are crushing them with this pressure. – Jackie Patterson
Climate change is amnesia. We’ve forgotten we are part of this world. – Daiara Sampaio
A sacred cycle of life has always been in place. Everything is part of it and is nature. We are not just here defending nature, we are nature. We are here defending ourselves. – Casey Camp Horinek
“All my grand daughters are graduates of MIT: Matriarch in training.” – Casey Camp Horinek
Today was another busy day. It started with all of us rushing to the venue first thing to try to get seats in the #UniteBehindTheScience event hosted by youth climate activists Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer. There was a lot of energy in the room even before the panel showed up, and I thought that the panel was excellent. The two activists were joined by five different scientists from various organizations (IPCC, The Stockholm Environment Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Fletcher School) and I found it very impressive that both young women had used their ability to bring people into the room (there were A LOT of cameras) and then let the experts do the talking. Greta started by saying she wanted to use her privilege to have an important conversation (something I think she did yesterday as well with a group of Indigenous activists) and then turned it over the the panel. Something that I really liked about this panel is that they focused both on the scope of the climate issue, but also stressed the scientific solutions and where they think the path forward is. The panel pretty much unilaterally said that we have the technology to solve the climate emergency and that the problem was policy implementation, which is something that I have heard over and over at this COP. They stressed the importance of engaging the people and making sure that the transition does not widen already existing inequities. And they also talked a lot about the importance of education, and this is the one place where Greta did contribute when she stressed that there were plenty of adults who needed educating as well, not just school children. It made me think of an outreach event I did recently with a 5th grade class focused on the scientific basis of global warming. The kids at that event were very eager to learn and open to the information we were giving them, which we did with a series of slides and demonstrations/activities. I wonder what kind of outreach we can develop for a group of adults? Maybe the same exercises would be appropriate, actually. In all, I found this event very uplifting and inspiring.
I also attended Al Gore’s talk, where he gave an overview the climate problem and outlined various natural disasters that have been amplified by a warming planet. I thought that the examples were effective, although it was a lot and verged a bit toward disaster porn. Gore himself was an interesting presenter and there were several times where he basically started yelling. The presentation reminded me a lot of his documentaries (not surprising, since his documentaries are all him) and since I had just come from the panel it struck me that in all the things I’ve seen from Gore he is the focal point. I am not sure I’ve seen him use his platform to enable other voices. Maybe I’m being unfair here, I certainly have not watched everything he’s put out or been in the room for all of his talks. But I did find myself wondering if he’s ever sat down and not talked when given a stage. Personally I did not find his one person show as engaging or as inspiring.
It was a busy first day of week 2, figuring out where the venue was (thanks Jenn for the subway directions!), getting our badges and settling in. Like yesterday, everyone hit the group running. I started off in the RINGO daily meeting and got inspired to go the the informal on Article 6. Article 6 is a big deal at COP-25 and I wanted to hear positive progress. I am not saying it wasn’t positive, I actually am not sure what it was. I was reminded that listening to delegates list their problems with text doesn’t captivate me, and certainly doesn’t make me hopeful. And I will be getting my Article 6 updated from the Eco Newletters from here on out! Kudos to those of you who find this kind of dialogue thrilling!
I shifted focus for the next part of the day, attending a series of side events focusing on subnational involvement and specifically on things that cities have and are doing to help meet national NDCs. These sessions were much more up my ally, and it was great hearing about different initiatives that cities are doing. Various mayors we are the events, and they talked about how they aligned climate friendly initiatives with the desires and needs of the people living in the city. They talked about different program they initiated, many of which were common across the different cities (which spanned three continents). They stressed that a lot of what they do is highlight to their citizens how the initiatives are helping them, which gets support to having tax money devoted to this work.It was great to hear about the ways some cities were pledging to be carbon neutral and some were even targeting carbon positive initiatives (https://www.turku.fi/en/news/2018-06-08_turkus-new-climate-plan-global-forefront). A resonating theme was that when a city government makes emission control integral to all aspects of government and makes sure to listen to the needs of the city, then everyone wins. They also stressed that by setting ambitious targets, you can really help shape truly transformative change. I found it really inspiring.
We made it to Madrid! It was an uneventful flight, and we actually landed early. Nancy hit the ground running, changed at the airport and went to the World Climate Summit. Isabel and I went to the apartment and got settled, and then she went off to an advocacy training session lead by CAN. On a day when COP-25 is not officially happening, it was still a busy day!
In past COPs I’ve attended, I have focused a lot on the Indigenous People’s Platform and structured my time around events where engaging Indigenous communities was forefront. Unfortunately, there is not a lot on the agenda regarding these issues at COP-25 (at least in week 2). I’m going to switch gears and make the focus of my week on sub-national engagement. This is something Max was focusing on, and I’m going to ride his headwind what looks like some great side events. I am specifically very interested in the resilience of urban dwellings and developing city initiatives to combat (and weather) climate catastrophe. I’ll keep you posted though-out the week!
Today I attended a side event called Building a Spirt of Solidarity to Overcome the Climate Crisis where voices from various different sects shared ideas on how to build solidarity, overcome fears, and take responsible decisions to protect humans form climate change. Overall, it was excellent. The panel included someone from the IPCC, a previous negotiator, a UNFCCC official, an archbishop, a nun, and my favorite Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, and Indigenous leader.
Overall, it was an excellent event! There was good spirt in the room and some interesting points were made. Many of the panel members talked about reconnecting with your fellow humans and discovering a sense of service. There was also a lot of discussion about trying to find common ground and in listening to people who don’t have the same view point as you. This resonated with me a lot, especially when the negotiator was talking about approaching the negotiations with countries with very different priorities. She stressed that negotiator that you disagree with the most is the one you need to connect with the most and try to understand the most so you can think about the issues from their point of view, and that only then is real progress made. Hindou also discussed bringing a human element to the negotiations, and how she views it as her responsibility to talk about the struggles of her people.
There were a lot of powerful messages throughout the 1.5 h and I left feeling positive. I also introduced myself to Hindou after the panel and shock her hand, which was a highlight of the day for me!
For those of you not at COP-24 and who want a source of the day to day outside of what we are giving on the blog, you may find the daily newsletters from ECO interesting and useful:
Today the entire group went to visit Auschwitz. We know this isn’t why we came to Poland, but we all felt very passionately about taking the time to visit this important landmark. The site isn’t far away, only about 35-40 km, so we made the trip and spent a long time visiting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional. By the time we were done at the main site, we didn’t have time to visit Birkenau, which was disappointing. It wasn’t an easy visit, but I think we were all glad we went to pay homage to the terrible atrocities that were committed there. I was proud that we were all able to talk about our emotions on the way home and over dinner as well, and to share some about what the visit meant to us.
Chris, representing the entire COP-24 Week 1 Delegation
Today was another great day and filled with lots of different experiences, including an interesting session related to climate finance that the South African delegate tried to blow-up and an informational meeting on the content of the recent IPCC report. Regarding the report, I found it very positive that a lot of delegates were affirming their commitments to meeting a new, 1.5 C target and that the take away wasn’t doom and gloom, but a reorientation of the challenge. I thought it was a very positive meeting.
The thing that was most exciting for me today is that I took place in my first protest! Ben Goloff ’15 help organize an action with the People’s Demands for Climate Justice and I went to support him. I ended up holding a sign and chanting. The Polish government is pretty strict about demonstrations, so this was inside the conference site and not out on the streets. But it still drew a crowd. I think the message of the cause is pretty important as well, so I was happy to take part. You can learn more about the movement here: https://www.peoplesdemands.org/ but the six demands are:
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground.
- Reject false solutions that are displacing real, people-first solutions to the climate crisis.
- Advance real solutions that are just, feasible, and essential.
- Honor climate finance obligations to developing countries.
- End corporate interference in and capture of the climate talks.
- Ensure developed countries honor their “Fair Shares” for largely fueling this crisis.
I did quite a few fun things today, but the one I was most excited for was the Inauguration of the Climate Action Hub, mainly because the person who impacted me most at COP-23, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, was speaking along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ibrahim is an Indigenous Leader and was instrumental in the establishment of the Indigenous Peoples platform at the last COP, and I really enjoyed listening to her viewpoints. Unfortunately, this event was a lot of fan fair for Arnold and was packed, so it was hard to hear any wisdom Ibrahim had to share. The differences in view points betweenSchwarzenegger’s privileged CA life (he talked about converting his 4 hummers to electric) and Ibrahim’s work with women in Indigenous communities was stark and it seemed like the event was a bit more focused on the former. I was a bit disappointed because I think that Ibrahim has a lot to share, but I am hopeful I’ll get to hear more from her as the COP goes on.