Day 1 (?) at COP24

opening ceremonyToday began with the typical pomp and circumstance of a climate change Conference of Party (COP). Cultural symbolism, music, and speeches dominated COP24’s official opening ceremony and “high level segment,” where heads of government and state gave national statements about their achievements and aspirations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres challenged the Paris Agreement parties to find the “political will to compromise: let’s start today doing the work to make the world we want.” The President of Nauru emphasized the intergenerational accountability of everyone in the plenary hall, asking them to think about youth activism on climate change taking place around the globe and the impact of the Parties’ inaction on this generation’s legacy.  Remarks by the Captains Regent of San Marino and the President of Slovenia took aim at some current political leaders’ negation of the Paris Agreement.  The former observed that “narcissistic politicians” can only see the short term and hunt votes accordingly, and called for “bold and expensive political choices very quickly.” The first sentence of the Slovenian leader’s speech put it bluntly: “The Paris Agreement is not a contract.”

week 1-3Amidst the hoopla, the Vermont Law School Observer Delegation got to work.  We started the morning at the RINGO coordination meeting, meeting delegates from universities, think tanks, and research centers from around the world.  Some of us then attended the opening ceremony and high level segment, catching Sir David Attenborough launching the #TakeYourSeat campaign. Others peeled off to join the first ever Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture workshop, the multilateral assessment of four developed countries’  and “facilitative sharing of views” on four developing countries’ reports on progress made on their climate change goals, and sessions on the Paris Committee on Capacity Building and Africa day. Check out today’s posts on this potpourri of COP24 issues.

Tomorrow the Parties will get down to negotiating the nitty gritty of the key outcome of COP24: the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines, more colloquially referred to as the Paris “rulebook.”  Without these, the Paris Agreement cannot really function as designed. The VLS delegation will focus on five key negotiation issues this week: adaptation (Amanda), AFOLU (Liz), loss and damage (Brian), NDCs (Gabriela), and transparency (Charlie).  Tuesday is filling up with “informal consultations” in which the Parties work together on each separate issue to wrestle the current 307-page Paris Agreement Work Program (PAWP) into a more manageable set of rules.

Oh, and the question mark in the title? It challenges the concept of opening day at this COP.  week 1 -2Normally COPs start on a Monday with the ceremonial welcome and speeches.  So in many ways, today looked like usual practice.  But in fact the COP, CMP, CMA, SBI, SBSTA, and APA held their opening plenaries yesterday – a change announced only in early September, well after many participants had made their travel plans. Sunday was a quiet day at the Spodek culture venue in Katowice, punctuated by only a couple of agenda disagreements (e.g. Russia counting Ukraine emissions as their own and Turkey asking yet again to be delisted as an Annex 1 or developed country).  Although the atypical start day caught many off guard, in the end it achieved its goal:  opening COP24 early so that the high level segment could take place today without slowing down the negotiations.  Tomorrow we will be in the thick of the specifics.  Stay tuned.