Day 2 at COP 19: The High Level Negotiating Begins

by Brian McKenzie T’14

COP19 arena WarsawOur second day at COP 19 was an exciting one. It kicked off of the “High Level” segment of the conference. This is when the ministers from each government arrive and when the action on the negotiating floor really starts to pick up. Up until now, the lead negotiators have handled all discussions and have adhered to the guidelines given to them by their governments. But, now they are able to take key issues to their ministers for approval, so there is a lot more leeway to arrive at agreements (even if it doesn’t always seem like it).

The high level segment kicked off with a speech from the President of Poland, followed by an artistic presentation by a Polish sand artist accompanied by a number of Polish musicians. Then, Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Christiana Figueres, the Executive Director of the UNFCCC addressed the parties, followed by statements from a number of world leaders.

Below are some details of a few key events that Difu, Harry, and I attended:

United States Pavilion – Session on Climate Adaptation and Resiliency   

The U.S. held an event on climate adaptation strategies for the U.S. It began with a presentation from Dr. Jonathan Pershing from the Dept. of Energy outlining the impacts of climate change on the U.S. A speaker from Johnson Controls then discussed some of the actions that buildings can take to become more resilient, which included a range of efficiency improvements, passive building design, and greater interconnections (i.e. district energy).

COP 19 with Giles Dickson of AlstromLastly, an old friend, Giles Dickson, the Head of Regulatory Affairs for Alstom wrapped up the session. Giles paid a visit to Tuck last year to speak in Professor Sundaram’s Climate Change class. He conceded that while Alstom has a good handle on the mitigation impacts of their products, they are in the very early stages of understanding how their products can help toward adapting to a changing climate. He spoke of new technologies such as dry-cooling systems for steam turbines to reduce their reliance on water, wind turbine blades that each have their own power source, and on predictive maintenance systems developed through analytics technologies. We had a good chat with Giles after the session as well (photo).

Canadian Delegation – Stakeholder Update

COP 19 Canada negotiator Dan McDougallIn the early afternoon, as the good Canadian I am, I attended the daily Canadian delegation stakeholder briefing. Each day, Canada’s Climate Change Ambassador and lead negotiator, Dan McDougall, gives an update on the key issues being negotiated that day and Canada’s position on them. He also answered questions from Canadians in attendance at the conference. (Photo: Dan McDougall, and a member of his team.)

A few of the key issues that are actively being negotiated are below:

1)      ADP (Advancing the Durban Platform) – Negotiations have been focused on creating a binding legal resolution to implement the key items agreed to the 2011 COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. Key issues include mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building. The co-chairs tabled a draft agreement which the parties worked with in negotiations this morning. Kuwait tabled an alternative draft referred to as the “like-minded LDCs” on behalf of a number of less developed countries. Canada and many other developed nations feel the current draft is not balanced. It appears ministers will need to get involved if any agreement is to be reached.

2)      Loss & Damage – This has been a major theme at this year’s COP. This is focused on creating a common categorization of the types of harms created by climate change, determining potential adaptation and response protocols, and putting in place near-term and long-term mechanisms to combat losses due to climate change. One of the key issues debated today was whether the United Nations should take the lead on organizing disaster response. This is particularly relevant given the disaster in the Philippines. Canada and many other nations felt strongly that UN control over disaster response would not be a good outcome (the word “disaster” may in fact have been used).

COP 19 dinosaur and BrianCanada’s delegation is also catching a lot of flack from everyone at the conference (including Canadians) for a statement made by the office of Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, which praised Australia’s government for introducing legislation to repeal its carbon tax. Australia currently holds the lead in the “fossil of the day” contest, a tongue-in-cheek award given to the country that demonstrated the most pre-historic view on the issue of climate change that day. So far, Canada has managed to stay off the leaderboard… I’m thinking that might change tomorrow!   Here’s a photo of me with the “fossil of the day” dinosaur!

Global Environmental Facility (GEF) – Film Premiere

In the evening, Harry and I attended the premiere “Planet at the Limit”, a film created by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) focused on climate change. It showed tangible examples of how climate change is affecting the world’s most vulnerable people, and also detailed some GEF-sponsored adaptation projects.

COP 19 Planet at the Limit director and flowersIt was a fun event. Harry and I had a long discussion with two Norwegians who are working on an interesting battery storage technology. We also had drinks with film’s director who told us more about how the documentary was created and how the people and projects were chosen (see photo — the flowers were his idea).

All in all, it was a great second day for us. I’m excited to get back over to the National Stadium for another day tomorrow. Stay tuned for more from Warsaw!


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