By: Iris van Hal
Today marks the start of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP). World leaders are gathering in the Polish city of Katowice to talk about the current issues around climate change.
During my studies in Wageningen over the past 3 years, I have learnt a lot about the worrying high amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere, rising sea-levels and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Topics like these are all discussed at a COP event and therefore, I figured it would be interesting to attend such a conference myself!
I found out that every year, they are looking for volunteers. With such a large event, it requires some organizational skills to keep everything running smoothly. This sounded very appealing to me so I signed up. After a lot of emailing, skyping and arranging, I finally got the confirmation that I, as a foreign student, could also come to help as a volunteer!
The Polish volunteer – coordinators set up a private Facebook group for everyone that would come in to help. This turned out very helpful since we could now post our questions there. I got in contact with Vasi, a Polish student from Katowice who showed to be very helpful in helping me find accommodation. After all, Katowice is only a small city and with around 30,000 people visiting the COP, it could become a problem to find a place to sleep. Because communication with Polish hostels could sometimes be difficult due to language barriers, Vasi went by several hostels in Katowice to ask them if they had a spot left for me. Unfortunately, it turned out that everything was full, unless I would be willing to pay 200 euro’s a night for a room…
But, many other local volunteers saw the problem and offered their couches on the Facebook group and that is how I did manage to find a place to stay! Yay!
With just one day of COP24 marked, I see already many pictures and stories being shared in the Facebook group for volunteers. So, that looks very promising!
Right now, I am preparing for the event by checking out which side-events I want to attend. Since I am no official delegate, I cannot attend the high-end meetings. However, the days are packed with events organized by other organization. Think of film-screenings, panel discussions, workshops of performances.
I expect the atmosphere at the COP to be very inspiring and energetic, but also quite formal. I hope the world leaders will have some innovative discussions, but will also look at what we have achieved so far. I am excited to get a taste of what such a big international conference will be like. I cannot wait to see what it is like and start my first volunteer-shift.
Stay tuned for my adventure! See you in Katowice!