A first Impression

By: Iris van Hal · Krakow, Poland

This weekend, I have been exploring Krakow. Despite not being present at the conference centre, I learned a lot and got some new insights.

While waiting for the bus to take me from Katowice to Krakow, I talked to some other volunteers. We spoke about the climate march taking place today and they showed some fear towards this event. After all, there were police cars parked everywhere with their lights flashing in bright blue.

Since I have been in contact with the members of COP Op, a group of Dutch climate activists who are participating in the march, I had a rough idea of what was going to happen. The idea of a march is based on methods of non-violent resistance and therefore, I could assure the volunteers that the ‘protestors’ were not here to fight or cause any trouble.

The volunteers also asked me if these ‘protestors’ were against what was happening inside the conference area. This actually surprised me. Coming from the green bubble in Wageningen, one starts to assume that the rest of the world has the same high level of knowledge and interest in what is happening at the annual UN Climate Summit. I explained the volunteers that they were not against the Summit, but rather want faster decision making and more concrete agreements that have to be met RIGHT. NOW.

This short chat with the volunteers thus already taught me that not everyone understand what is going on and that the strict safety measures, which are of course needed, could also induce fear.

 

In Krakow, I am staying with Marie and Moritz, a young German couple that moved to Krakow a couple years ago. Marie is studying Central European Studies at Jagiellonian University and therefore, living in Poland makes a lot of sense. She gave me a little tour of the house, which also brought us to her bookshelf: 2 works by Naomi Klein, study books on framing political processes and EU policy making. That’s the way I like it! On Saturday evening, we talked about our studies and the COP. I tried to explain to her why it makes sense for me to be here, but I struggled to do so. After thinking this through, I noticed we had mainly talked about ‘sustainability’, ‘reducing greenhouse gases’ and ‘how to take good care of the planet’. However, the Conference of the Parties is about much more! Think for example of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were introduced at COP21 in 2015 and include aims for zero poverty, healthy life on land, sustainable cities & communities and reduced inequality. Thus, there is much more going on than only the debate about whether or not to take the plane! In fact, only one(!) SDG is about climate action (nr. 13). Of course, all SDGs are related and to achieve one goal, the successes of other goals are crucial too. So indeed, we do need to address the critical condition of our climate.

 

But, the point I am trying to make here, is that I think the way in which is talked about the Climate Summit could use some change. The way the Conference of the Parties is presented in the media is steered in a particular, too narrow, direction.

I even noticed it in the interview I did for Resource Magazine; my interviewer really steered towards talking about the issue of transportation. I also noticed this in other media sources, so their framing game is strong…

As critical students and researchers, I believe it is our task to also address the other 16 important topics that are being discusses at COP. Of course climate action is needed at this moment, but like I argued before, all goals are interconnected. As long as there is no clean drinking water available for everyone or people are living in extreme poverty or hunger, we cannot forget about them and what is needed to improve their situation.

 

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Follow RUW at COP24!

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!

Iris