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COP24 – Poland – You are the Champions

joulukuu 13, 2018

Wednesday, my last day at COP this year. We had a busy day with lot of prepping to do, so we started out early.

Originally, there was a plan to give out Climate Champion of the Day award on every day of the COP, in a more positive response to the “Fossil of the Day” -award that Climate Action Networks has been giving for years and years. But having such a booking in some public area for each day had proven to be impossible. So plan B (or maybe it was even plan C) was to book a meeting room for one session and announce all the nine champions of the day in one session.

As it turned out, even getting a meeting room for one hour was tricky. And that is why we were there early in the morning, asking if our application for a room had passed. It had not. But we were given an option: get one room from 6 PM to 7 PM or wait for some magic to happen to get an earlier booking (and be announced about it half an hour earlier, leaving no time for preparation). After 30 seconds of deliberation, we took the evening.

Big Al, big show

But first, we went to see Al Gore give his presentation. The room was packed with hundreds, if not thousands of people, listening Al give them his best. And I have to admit that it was good. Nice looking, good quality slides came and went at high speed on the enormous screens while Al delivered his comments and insights. A perfect presentation for that crowd, with lots of examples how Solar PV or wind energy was growing in places around the world.

day5-AL

Mr. Al Gore, delighting the crowd with a nugget of information that the Kentucky coal Mining Museum had installed solar panels on its roof.

But very little talk of emissions. The disturbing thing for me was that from listening to him, one could get the image that shitloads of stuff was happening, and hence we need not worry. But still, as annual emissions keep on rising, it is pretty clear that shitloads is nowhere nearly enough. And to give Al some props, he said it himself; despite all this progress, we are nowhere near the speed of decarbonization that we need.

Even nuclear was mentioned, somewhere in the lines of “Nuclear has also been growing, but we can talk about that another time”. It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Our second largest clean energy source, and the only one that has so far proven to be fast and scaleable, got 3 seconds from Al. There is still a lot to do to normalize nuclear energy in society and public discussion. If we are to stop climate change, we need to get as excited about nuclear as we are on wind and solar and batteries and all the rest.

More Melty the Bears!

In the afternoon we also had another 30 minute session with Melty the Bears at the hallway. It was again a huge success, with dozens of people taking pictures of and with our three Meltys. Such a nice way to bring positivity to the climate fight, with inclusive, rather than exclusive, toolbox of solutions.

day5-melty

Not one, not two, but three Meltys!

Climate Champions Award

After the show with Al, and our polar bear photo-shoot, we got a couple hours of time before the Climate Champions award, so I did what anyone would have done at that point: I took a quick nap.

day5-CC-awards

The stage is set. **Drumroll**

Given that our session was rather late in the evening, and in the farthest end of the conference area, almost no people showed up for our award. This was to be expected, as we had had very little time to advertise for it. But we did it, and no doubt there will be some sort of video of it out later. The Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Finland got their award as well for having largely decarbonized electricity systems and other progressive policies in place (and in Finland for extending Olkiluoto 1&2 lifetimes, building new nuclear and having a ban for coal energy use by 2029). Personally, I did not fully agree with all the reasons for all the champions, but that is just me; never happy about it, always finding something to complain about 🙂 (Actually, it’s not me, it’s them: they should stop making bad calls and counterproductive policies. I stop complaining as soon as that happens).

Book signing of Polish Climate Gamble

Right after the event, we rushed to a local micro-brewery/bar, where we had reserved the downstairs room of the bar for a book-signing event to celebrate the release of the Polish version of Climate Gamble. Good beer, good food, good people and friends, both old and new, all on a mission to save our climate, with a lot of laughter and love. And nuclear energy as part of the solution.

What better way to wrap up the day and the COP?

Epilogue – Distributed energy production poverty at display

Adam, an amazing local activist, my gracious host and designated driver (thank you so much once more), took me to the airport in the next morning. During the week, we had had many good conversations of the Polish energy situation and policies. One consistent theme was this:

What would happen to Polish energy prices, competitiveness and people’s living standards if (and when) the prices of emissions rights would increase in the European Emissions Trading System (ETS)? The German utilities have bought a couple years’ worth of cheap emissions rights in advance, but the polish utilities maybe didn’t have the capital to do that, so they are already feeling the sharp increase in emissions prices (from 7 euros / ton to 20 euros / ton in the last year) and have been forced to increase electricity prices as a result. This hits the poor first and worst, as they have limited amount of disposable income to start with.

day5-trash

Distributed energy meets energy poverty: ”For the love of God, don’t burn trash!”

Energy poverty will get real, and it might do so faster than we would like to think. Polish industrial competitiveness will suffer, leading to less jobs and less disposable income in the economy, leading to less jobs also in the services sector. And what do people do when they don’t have money to heat their house with electricity? They burn coal and even trash in their home-stoves (also in the cities, where the air is already smelly and hard to breath due to coal plants and old diesel cars).

And on the way to the airport, we saw a vivid example what that looks like. ”For the love of God, don’t burn trash!”

Thanks for reading. I’m headed back home now. Can’t wait to get to my family and put the sauna on…

Ps. The event of nuclear supporters being thrown out from the climate march that I told you about in my Day-0 report has gathered a lot of press here in Poland, with majority of the people seeing it as wrong. The discussion has started. We need to keep it going. We need to keep it focused on facts.

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