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NREL scientists head to Poland for COP24

Photo of early taken from a NASA satelliteWritten by Sarah Whipple

The recent publication of theU.S. National Climate Assessment and newly updated international climate report has generated tremendous amounts of press and rejuvenated public discourse on national and international climate policy. Scientists warn that action needs to be taken immediately to avoid the worst projected climate change impacts on societies and ecosystems around the globe. For many students, the opportunity to instigate– let alone, participate– in environmental policy is rare. However, the need for young people to advocate for their science is necessary given the urgency of addressing the present climate crisis. When Colorado State University opened up the opportunity for a group of students from the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology (GDPE) and the Masters Program in Greenhouse Gas Management (MGMA), to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 24th Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP24), Dr. Gillian Bowser and professors from external universities– Clark and Emory University– decided to form a graduate student seminar class to organize for the important conference. Students participated in this crash course on UN international policy framework and strategized for their participation and leadership in the forthcoming COP.

After fourteen weeks of memorizing all of the UN’s different acronyms, discussing past and current environmental issues and their policies, and preparing for a student-led side event panel presentation, five students from CSU are heading to Katowice, Poland with Dr. Bowser and three other CSU-faculty delegates for the 24th UNFCCC. Their goal is to translate their knowledge and their passions for science and advocacy to others, and to energize present and future climate leaders.

COP24 image reading "what will happen to global GHG emissions if countries keep all of their climate promises?"

What’s at stake during COP?

“COP21 saw the birth of the Agreement. In Poland [COP24], as I call it Paris 2.0, we will put together the pieces, directions, and guidelines in order to make the framework really operate,” says Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary. By the end of this COP, countries are expected to begin striving towards their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Countries that have signed on to the Paris Agreement all created their own NDCs and need to report on their contributions every five years through a global stocktake (as seen in article 14 of the original Agreement). However, with recent reports like the IPCC’s updated 1.5 degrees Special Report coming out, people hope that negotiators come to COP with a greater motivation to finalize the rules originally stated with the Paris Agreement.

In light of the recent IPCC report, more ambitious strategies towards their NDCs are anticipated so that the 1.5 degree Celsius target can be met. Specifically, a large focus of the conferences will be on the future investments needed in order to protect the planet from hitting the “well below 2-degree Celsius warming” line. Organizers hope that strategies for expanded global climate action and international coordination for more efficient and effective economic and energy transformations will emerge out of Paris 2.0. The UNFCCC has prepared negotiators to finalize this legislation, and they even began COP two days early, to allow for all negotiations to occur. While these negotiations may seem hard to navigate, many believe that a successful implementation of Paris, through mitigation and adaptation, is still possible.

Young people at COP 24
“It is inspiring to meet so many young people at #COP24. The world needs ambitious and urgent #ClimateAction – they are stepping up to the challenge!” – António Guterres

What will the students’ role be at the COP?

Each student will serve as a delegate and represent either a non-governmental organization, a university, or a working group during the conference. Each day, students will head to different panels, negotiations, and booths in order to learn more about the positions that their interests and delegations are following. CSU is also co-hosting a booth in the UN Civil Society Pavillon with the Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations. This is where students will discuss their research interests amongst constituents, encourage participants to fill out a research survey focused on climate action, present information on CSU’s various graduate programs, and more. Finally, some of the students will participate in side event panels throughout the COP. These will also highlight some of the research projects that CSU students work on and will serve to demonstrate how research can enhance future policy making decisions and personal actions.

We will be writing some follow-up blog posts during and post-COP, so check EcoPress as we continue to keep you all updated on our progress as a student group. In addition, we’ll be tweeting through personal accounts and GDPE’s account. We also have an Instagram account (@youth4ourfuture). Finally, we have set-up a personal WordPress blog that we hope to keep updated as well. From all of us, we are incredibly thankful and grateful for CSU for granting us this opportunity, and we look forward to sharing the experience with you all soon.