I visited Auschwitz on the last morning of COP24.
It was an incredibly moving experience. After getting through the ticketing process you enter the camp through the famous Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) gate.
The next two and a half hours were amazingly sad to see the facilities and learn more about how the Germans systematically killed over 1.3 million people there. I used to have a hard time understanding how a country could be driven to do such horrible things. The global politics of the last few years have, unfortunately, made it a little more understandable.
Back at COP24, I have increasingly noticed small groups of people with the badges that indicate they are official members of a country’s negotiating team huddled in hallways. They are often reviewing documents and whispering. Undoubtedly, they are working through the final language of the agreements and deciding what deals and compromises can be made and if they can get the rest of their delegations to agree, as the clock ticks down in Katowice.
There were a few events meant to put some final pressure on the Parties. One event was an organized protest held on the main stairs of the convention center.
I attended a briefing from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and he said several interesting things: “Climate change is moving faster than we are. Commitments we made in Paris are not enough. Reality is worse than forecast. Those who don’t bet on the green economy will be left far behind in the next 10-20 years.”
The last event was a press conference by the High Ambition Coalition.
This was a group that emerged in Paris that pushed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees instead of the previous target of 2 degrees. It was a standing-room-only event filled with members of international media in the room at the European Union pavilion. They urged other countries to do more. The Maldives minister said, “You cannot cut a deal with science. You cannot negotiate with physics.” Our neighbor to the north – Canada, joined the coalition today as well.
As one of the panelists at a session on climate adaptation said, “Even if we meet the Paris goals of 1.5 degrees we are still in trouble.”
We are seeing the results of climate change all over the world now, and we aren’t there yet. I can’t help but think about how the Holocaust compares to climate change. Small island nations and other low-lying countries have the most to lose. Their homes, cultures, and countries will be gone — those will be the lucky ones that live to tell their story of climate change.
I’m finishing this post sitting in the plenary room waiting for the final announcement of the outcome of COP24. They have pushed it back several times – 4:00, 7:00, 10:00, now to 4:00 AM. I will not be staying that long. Hopefully they reach an agreement.
Hopefully humanity can come together to work together to take real action on climate change. Only time will tell…