I arrived on Sunday evening at my Bed and Breakfast in the town of Chrzanow after landing at Krakow airport for my first visit to Poland. Chrzanow is located between Krakow and Katowice, the location of COP 24, and is about 35 km from the Conference Centre. When I booked the accommodation 3 months ago there was nowhere available in the immediate vicinity or if there was the price was exorbitant. All the other residents are also attending the COP so the problem has been widespread.
Rather frustratingly I learned on arrival that the UNFCCC Secretariat had posted a notice on their website to the effect that NGO’s and IGO’s would not be able to register on the Monday until 2pm. So I spent the time at the hotel preparing for the 2 side events with which we are involved at the end of the week before catching a (mini)bus to Katowice – amazingly only €1 each way!
The Conference venue spreads out in one long line with the exhibits area at one end in what is known as the Spodek, an enormous saucer-shaped building the base of which serves as a huge theatre stage but is currently the food hall. At the other end, and about a mile away through canvas covered corridors and the country pavilions’ tent, are the side events halls, each seating up to 300 people.
I acquainted myself with the layout and visited a number of stands including the UK Pavilion, where I met once again, Jim Dippie from the UK Government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who had invited us to hold an event there on Friday. I also met with the Global Ecovillage Network team at our joint exhibit and discussed our plans for Thursday’s side event, which we are holding with GEN and with the Nordic Folkecenter, as at COP 23.
Back at the hotel it had started to snow and on Tuesday morning the ground was covered but not the roads as the Poles clearly have efficient systems in place for minimising the effect. Catherine and Anita Forjette, INTO’ wonderful volunteer from Zurich, had arrived from England during the night for their first COP and we set off on the hour-long journey by Uber taxi.
The morning was taken up with introductions at the stand and a walk to the far end of the complex to attend a series of side events. The first of these was a powerful address by the Prime Minister of Fiji, who had presided over COP 23 in Bonn. He explained in straightforward terms what should be the outcome of the COP – a pathway to achieving the Paris Agreement by limiting global warming to 1.5° above pre-industrial level – and that stakeholders needed to raise their ambitions and their will dramatically if we were to achieve this by 2050.
He spoke about the serious damage and deaths caused by Hurricane Winston and that “we needed to build back better”. He also repeated his mantra from COP 23 that we are all in the same canoe and need to work together.
Also presenting was the colourful Hindou Omara Ibrahim from Chad who I had invited to speak at the ICNT in Bermuda in March but sadly she was unable to. She was speaking on behalf of the indigenous peoples in the Sahel region of Africa. She explained that we ignored traditional knowledge at our peril, telling a story of her grandmother being able to accurately forecast weather patterns from the leaves of trees.
The final event was hosted by the World Travel and Tourism Council with whom INTO is associated as a Supporter of their Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and more recently through signing their declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade and a major event on the topic in London in October, attended by Catherine.
Members of the tourist industry gave insights into how they were mitigating and adapting to climate change. Interestingly cultural heritage did not get a mention so I reminded one or two of the speakers at the end that as heritage was so often the raison d’être for the tourists being there in the first place that maybe hoteliers, like Hilton (one of the speakers, should be supporting us!
More snow on the way home and now, on Wednesday morning it is still coming down!
Oliver Maurice 12 Dec 2018