Today was my first day attending sessions at the conference, and I am back on track after my jetlag. An orientation session by Climate Action Network (CAN) for new COP attendees certainly helped me understand the purpose and structure of the conference.
Since I know there may be some new readers to the blogs, I will give a summary of my understanding. The grand agreement that was reached in Paris in 2015 was a broad overview. This year, the conference is filling in the details, which the presenter called “the rulebook.” These rules, including accountability and reporting, will be completed at the 2018 conference. They are also preparing for “facilitated dialogue” at the next conference, especially to address issues raised by less developed countries.
Up until 2001, the climate conferences had been reluctant to talk about adaptation to climate change since that seemed like capitulating instead of fighting against climate change contributors. Now, with the adverse effects of climate change being evident in addition to adaptation funds to prepare for climate consequences, there is now talk of needing support for “loss and damage” in countries not able to fund their recovery. Another topic raised by less developed nations is the displacement of people affected by climate change. This is certainly on the mind of the delegation from Fiji, as they are the lead nation for this COP. So, the conference is also planning the process for “facilitated dialogue” in 2018 in Poland.
I attended a panel discussion about city and regional efforts around climate change. One of the panelists was the mayor of Davenport, Iowa. He described the coalition of cities along the Mississippi that are cooperating on the control of water in the river, especially related to flooding. Rather than building dikes to send the water on down the river, his region is finding ways to keep the water on the land and also improve the water quality. I overheard a comment to him – that it is good to see people from the Midwest, since the general impression is that action on climate change is mostly from the coastal states. A speaker from the UN Food and Agriculture organization made the point that a great majority of the world’s poor people (maybe he said 70%) live in rural areas. When climate change causes their agriculture to fail they migrate to the cities, which compounds the problem.
I was planning to go to a presentation by U.S. government officials on the role of “cleaner fossil fuels” in mitigating climate change. However, the line was very long and the front of the line turned into a sit-in protest. Apparently some people had protested inside and when they were removed, they sat down and protested with phrases like “keep it in the ground.” This is only the second protest that I heard about in the conference sessions, but there was a big event in the city over the weekend. The Washington Post has an article about the protest and there is more on Twitter.