By the Climate Centre
This year’s session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 19th, opened today at the National Stadium venue in the Polish capital, Warsaw.
‘COP 19’ is the penultimate round of UN climate talks before the 2015 deadline set by negotiators for a global agreement on targets for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions within five years.
Last month, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said participants should be ready to bring together national and global planning. “Governments have to walk out of Warsaw knowing their next step is to go home and do the necessary internal analysis, so that they are in a position to put their national contribution on the table towards a global solution,” she said in an address at Chatham House, London. “Before we get to 2015, I would like to very clearly underline that 2014 is the critical year.”
The Polish Minister of the Environment, Marcin Korolec, assumed the presidency of the UNFCCC process on the first day of COP 19 and will hold it until the 20th session next year.
In a statement, the new president committed the Conference to strengthening the multilateral global climate process in accordance with the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and full participation, while respecting the diverse interests and opinions of the Parties.
The two week conference ends on Friday 22 November, and overlaps with IFRC’s General Assembly, taking place in Sydney, Australia between 12-15 November, which provides a forum for National Societies to discuss the most pressing humanitarian challenges and formulate future strategy.
The IFRC has sent a 30-strong delegation to COP 19 in Warsaw, with members drawn from 15 National Societies with an interest in climate change, and technical specialists from the secretariat and the Climate Centre, headed by Evgeni Parfenov, the IFRC Europe zone’s Head of Operations.
The IFRC has been actively engaged in the COP process for at least a decade in an effort to highlight the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities around the world.
“It’s vital for humanitarians to be involved in the COP discussions,” said Walter Cotte, IFRC Under Secretary General, Programme Services Division. “It offers an opportunity for our National Societies to work with their government counterparts on common objectives for climate-related issues.
“Climate change increases both the risk and consequences of disaster for millions of vulnerable people; spreading the knowledge and skills to deal with a crisis at a local level – while advocating for better disaster laws at a governmental level – will improve response and resilience among those most likely to be at the centre of events.”
But effective operations, Cotte said, required substantial investment in disaster risk reduction, including better early warning systems across all timescales.
Volunteers from the Polish Red Cross will be on hand at the IFRC’s exhibition stand at the main COP 19 venue. The stand includes videos, briefings on humanitarian issues and a selection of educational games. The delegation is also co-hosting two side-events.
On Thursday 14 November, alongside the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and other partners, a workshop will examine how ecosystem-based and community interventions can contribute to addressing adaptation and mitigation. Discussion will centre on potential synergies in forestry and agriculture, and include case-study presentations from Indonesia, Africa’s Congo river basin, mangrove restoration in Vietnam, and reforestation operations in Uganda.
Over the weekend (16-17 November), the popular Development and Climate (D&C) Days – a fixture at these meetings for more than a decade – will be hosted by the Climate Centre, bringing together policy-makers, scientists and development practitioners.
The Climate Centre and the Global Environment Facility will lead the Saturday programme, showcasing practitioners’ field experience. While on Sunday, the Climate Centre and the International Institute for Environment and Development – which originated D&C Days 11 years ago in Delhi – will focus on innovative game-based approaches for action on climate-change education, learning and capacity building.
The Climate Centre’s Associate Director for Research and Innovation, Dr Pablo Suarez, said the plan was to engage the audience, rather than lecturing. “The default approach in training of all kinds tends to be a sequence of presentations followed by questions and answers, but it’s all in one direction and most people are passive,” he said.
“With participatory methods like games, everyone’s brain-power is at work. You get more intensity, more connection, more interaction – just what we need to meet the challenges being addressed at this COP.”