Next stop on the climate party circuit – Katowice, Poland

The UN Climate Summit kicks off today in Poland. These events are always full of promises and deals. Bentham Paulos takes a look back at the promises made at September’s summit in California to see what the Poland meetings will mean for future progress.

Today begins the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP24 for short – in Katowice, Poland

The key objective of the meeting is to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement (Photo by Bentham Paulos)

Today begins the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP24 for short – in Katowice, Poland. As the sense of urgency around climate change grows, the organizers hope the meeting will serves as “Paris 2.0… [and] make the framework really operate.”

The groundwork for COP24 was laid in September at the Global Climate Action Summit, when thousands of delegates from around the world gathered in California. This was not an official UN event but is on the “party circuit” of world climate events. Such events help keep people excited and pushing forward, to “Take Ambition to the Next Level,” as organizers put it.

The San Francisco event drew some 4000 delegates from around the world for a week of meetings, sales pitching, fundraising, deal-making, showcasing, celebrity-gawking, and attention-seeking. It drew an uncounted number of others for public events, side-meetings, and protesting in the streets.

Above all it was an opportunity for a bewildering number of announcements and pledges from governments, companies, universities, and many other actors.

The Summit organizers counted 74 official announcements, though there are even more that didn’t make their catalog. Here are ten chosen at random to give an idea of the scope and scale of ambitions announced at and around the Summit.

#1 American solar developer SunRun announced plans to put 100 MW of solar on affordable housing in California, enough to serve 50,000 low-income families.The installations will be done through building owners at no cost to the tenants.

#2 Baden-Württemberg, the birthplace of the internal-combustion engine and the heart of the German auto industry, joined the ZEV Alliance, a coalition of nations and states pledging to “strive to make all passenger vehicle sales zero-emission vehicles as fast as possible, but no later than 205. Washington Governor Jay Inslee also pledged his state to the Alliance at the Summit, bringing membership up to 16, including Germany, California, and the UK.

#3 Many parties agreed to buy electric vehicles for their own fleets. The Under2 Coalition Zero Emissions Vehicle Challenge saw 12 new states and regions commit to buying ZEVs, including Scotland and Catalonia; nineteen US mayors announced the formation of an EV purchasing collaborative; and Clif Bar and Delta Electronics joined 21 other businesses in the EV100 program, run by The Climate Group.

#4 Twenty-nine foundations and philanthropists pledged 4 billion over the next five years to combat climate change—the largest-ever philanthropic investment focused on climate Change. Most of the foundations have long been active on climate issues; it’s not clear how much new funding is involved.

#5 The Powering Past Coal Alliance announced ten new members, including the Capital Territory of Australia, the Balearic Islands, Wales, the US states of Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York, and the cities of Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Rotterdam. The Alliance now counts 74 members, including 29 national governments, 17 subnational governments and 28 businesses, working together to phase out coal and transition to clean energy.

#6 Many corporations announced clean energy and carbon reduction goals. Business services giant Salesforce signed the Step Up Declaration, a new alliance of 21 companies “dedicated to harnessing the power of the fourth industrial revolution” to cut Carbon. That coalition is managed by Mission 2020, an NGO led by former UNFCCC leader Christiana Figueres. Salesforce achieved “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a carbon neutral cloud” last year, and has a new skyscraper, the tallest building in San Francisco, that is 100% renewable-powered and certified LEED Platinum.

#7 The CEO of the Port of Rotterdam announced a new coalition of ports committing to cut carbon, including Hamburg, Barcelona, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Antwerp. The coalition will cut emissions in their own operations as well as advocate for carbon limits on shipping. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed in April to cut the shipping sector’s overall CO2 output by 50 percent by 2050.

#8 Mahindra Group in India will be carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years faster than the Paris agreement, according to Anand Mahindra, the grandson of the company founder. The Mahindra conglomerate operates in 20 industries, from cars and tractors to information technology to real estate. Their clean energy division has built 1210 MW of solar projects in India and has another 1990 MW of projects in the works. At the Summit, they joined the EP100 group, companies that work on energy productivity.

#9 Nine law firms joined Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, each agreeing to provide up to $2 million in pro bono legal services to small nonprofits and emerging technology companies by 2020.

#10 California Governor Jerry Brown announced that ““if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite to monitor pollution sources in the state.The Trump Administration has proposed cutting NASA’s Earth Mission budget that pays for climate-sensing satellites. California would work with San Francisco-based Planet Labs, which has launched almost 300 satellites in the past five years.

This is just a taste of the many pledges and plans that were rolled out in anticipation of COP24. The Katowice meeting, according to the UN, aims to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Talanoa Dialogue will also convene, a facilitated dialogue led by Fiji to “take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal.” This new round of work takes place against the bad news that this year’s CO2 emissions are the highest yet, according to the UN Environmental Programme.

So in Katowice, like in San Francisco, there will be another flurry of meetings, sales pitching, fundraising, deal-making, showcasing, celebrity-gawking, and attention-seeking, as the party circuit rolls on.


Bentham Paulos is an energy consultant and writer based in California. His views are his own, and don’t necessarily represent those of any of his clients.

1 Comment

  1. Frank Sterle Jr says

    Whether it’s mass deforestation in Brazil, or increasingly dry forests resulting in such record-breaking deadly wildfires as in California this fall, or a myriad of other categories of large-scale toxic pollutant emissions and dumps, currently there’s discouragingly insufficient political gonad planet-wide to sufficiently address it …
    Maybe due to (everyone’s spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment, as though toxic pollutants emitted through exhausts pipes and tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind). It may be the same mentality that allows the immense amount of plastic waste, such as disposable straws, to eventually find its way into our life-filled oceans, where there are few, if any, caring souls to see it. Indeed, it’s quite fortunate that the plastic waste doesn’t entirely sink out of sight to the bottom, like Albertan diluted bitumen crude oil (dilbit) spills, for then nothing may be done about it, regardless of divers’ reports of the awful existence of such plastic tangled messes. Also, it must be quite convenient for the fossil fuel industry to have such a large portion of mainstream society simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the former for the great damage it’s doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable. Undoubtedly, to have almost everyone addicted to driving their own fossil-fuel-powered single occupant vehicle helps keep their collective mouths shut about the planet’s greatest and very profitable polluter, lest they feel like and/or be publicly deemed hypocrites. Also, why worry about such things immediately unseen, regardless of their most immense importance, especially when there are various undesirable politicians and significant social issues over which to dispute—distractions our mainstream news-media are willing to sell to us?

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