COP24, the twoweek 24th conference of the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), started in Katowice, Poland, with a special focus on carbon neutrality and gender equality. Days after the UN sounded the alarm on the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the world is gathering to define how the 2015 Paris Agreement will be implemented and moved forward by its 197 parties, United Nations reported.
Under the agreement, all countries have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global average rise in temperature to well below 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.
Kicking off the two-week event in Katowice on Sunday, a historically mining town in the south of Poland, a team of cyclists on electric bikes arrived from Vienna, having biked 600 km to demonstrate the value of renewable energy in reducing emissions. The expedition was supported by the UN Global Compact, a group of private sector companies committed to sustainable development.
“I commend the cyclists involved in this bike tour for inspiring the world to move in the right direction to fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement,” said UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad. “This is the most important COP since the signing of the agreement, and we need initiatives like yours to testify that governments, the private sector and individuals can work together to tackle climate change by committing to multilateralism.”
To limit COP24’s footprint and achieve carbon neutrality, the conference organisers have taken a series of measures. First, public transportation in the city is free of charge for the duration of the conference, for all participants.
In addition, reusable materials have been used to set up the conference rooms, including carpets and backdrops. Recycled cardboard furniture was installed the main meeting spaces.
The conference will also enforce a strict waste management policy, distinct recycling bins will be available in all meeting rooms, the packaging of electronic equipment has been saved and will be reused after the conference is over, the packaging of catering products is environmentally friendly, single-use plastic products are limited across the space and overall, the conference is paper light, with official documents available only in digital versions.
To limit greenhouse emissions due to transportation, virtual participation is encouraged and supported through live webcasts of the main events.
Unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions due to the event will be tracked through a rigorous calculation by the organisers based on international standards. It is anticipated that COP24 will generate approximately 55,000 tons of CO2. To offset this, the Polish Government has committed to planting more than 6 million trees, capable of absorbing the equivalent of the conference’s emissions in the next 20 years.
Adopted at the previous COP, the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan (GAP) promotes the mainstreaming of gender into climate policy and action at all levels. Half-way into the implementation of the GAP, parties, observers and the Convention Secretariat will showcase the measures they have taken to date.
Regarding the gender representation in the conference itself, the UNFCCC Secretariat has been monitoring since 2013 gender balance in technical and decision-making bodies established under the Convention. For the first time this year, more than half of these bodies have female representation of 38 per cent or more. Furthermore, there is a record number of female delegates elected to the position of Chair or Co-Chair of these bodies – nine out of a possible 28 positions. Though these improvements represent steps in the right direction to achieve the goal of gender balance, much remains to be done.