Day 8 from COP 24 in Katowice: Accelerating Climate Action and The Future of Wine

Day 8 from COP 24 in Katowice: Accelerating Climate Action and The Future of Wine
by Michele Gehring 

Day 8
– Monday, 10 December 2018
First, let me clarify this conference brings the issue of concurrent sessions to a whole new, exponential level. At any given minute, there are thousands of opportunities for engagement and learning – some well-advertised, some somewhat advertised, and some that somebody thought about advertising but decided to keep it interesting. So, I've hit a myriad of talks on this first day, catching portions of sessions here and there, all while trying to figure out which of the EIGHT different buildings the session is in and how to get from the place I am to that place. I've tried to mix it up, hopefully bringing a little bit for everyone. If nothing else in this post interests you, skip to the bottom and read about the impacts of climate change on wine production in the Bordeaux region!

High Level Session – Pre-2020 Stocktake

This session went for hours and I was able to sit in on the first hour of it. The meeting was opened by the President of COP 24, the Deputy Secretary for the UN Climate Change Secretariat, and the High-Level Champion from the Ministry for Agriculture. All three echoed the same sentiment – we're making good progress but meeting the 2020 goal of 1.5 degrees is not a given. The work ahead is immense but not impossible. The first session consisted of representatives from five countries, counting the EU as a country: Poland, Grenada, European Union, China, and Australia. Some highlights from each, with a few less from Poland because Michele's first lesson of major COP 24 sessions – grab the translation headset outside the door!
  • Poland is in the process of implementing a zero-emission public transport program. They actually have two major companies in Poland that are building electric buses and they are rolling these out in major cities now.
  • Grenada has taken a major step in allowing for alternative power within their country, by calling an end to an 880-year monopoly on the power sector in Grenada. (They are actually now engaged in the International Courts of Arbitration because of it.) Their general comment on the pre-2020 situation is that results are “mixed” and indicated that, in their opinion, we, in general, have failed to make the progress we need to. The biggest impacts they face are from increased frequency and strength of hurricanes with the obvious impact on the tourism industry and their main source of revenue.
  • European Union is ahead of their 2020 goals and are predicting a 26 percent emission reduction by 2020. They are also making major financial commitments to climate change programs. In 2017, the EU and its member states contributed 24.4 billion Euros to such programs.
  • China expects to achieve at least two of their 2020 objectives early. They emphasized the importance of the ratification of the Doha amendment and indicated their belief that a delay in that process would only result in further effects and delayed action overall.
  • Australia is on track to over achieve on their 2020 goal. They continue to see increased reliance on the use of renewables, expecting it to represent 23 percent of their supply by 2020.
Environmental NGO Daily Meeting
Sadly, the meeting lost a lot of attendees due to another group that squatted on our meeting room. By the time it got started, we were down to three attendees, with no organizer to run the show. There was a lively discussion on the role that NGOs can play in climate policy, recognizing that we are not party to the negotiations themselves. Three general ideas emerged: communication, resources, and integration.
  • Communication - Part of the problem is a general lack of understanding in developing countries, and a lack of buy-in from developed countries on the impacts of climate change and the types of things that do affect it. Environmental NGOs can provide this communication but need to do so in a way that means something to the end user.
  • Resources – Despite any level of communication or knowledge, a lack of resources to implement changes will lead to inaction. Environmental NGOs can help provide these resources or lobby for them.
  • Integration – There also needs to be integration of these efforts with local governments.
A member from the Sudan used the example of a poor villager that chooses to cut down trees so that his family can eat. The villager is likely not aware of the impact that continued deforestation, at any scale, will have on the climate and his neighbor's farm. But, even if he were aware, he lacks other resources to provide for his family. Integration with the local government to both educate the villagers as well as provide them alternatives and resources will work to close the gap.

Business Innovation Accelerating Climate Action
This short session's speaker was the CEO of a company that works to identify business innovations that can have an impact on climate change and that are demonstrating upward momentum. The scout businesses much like a hedge-fund manager scouts and tracks fund performance, using signs and cues to indicate what will grow and succeed. He talked both about this progress and about how bias prevents ideas (and businesses) from succeeding. On bias, he discussed three types of bias:
  • Cognitive bias – It won't work because it didn't work the last time we tried it, or there is no reason to try it because we are doing now will get us there.
  • Negative bias – The naysayers that downplay ideas and do so confidently and effectively.
  • Linear bias – The tendency to think in linear terms rather than exponential terms. We say we are happy with a reduction or growth of x this year or x over five years, instead of recognizing the potential that could achieved with ex reduction or growth. (Basically, saying we limit ourselves).
There will a discussion of how to look at growth rates for businesses engaged in climate technology. Obviously, a technology that has a growth rate of 41 percent will double itself in two years. But, in the same way, a technology that has 2 percent of the market share but is doubling their fraction of the market share annually will reach saturation very quickly.
He closed with a discussion on the way business leaders' ambition can drive policy-maker decisions and they, in turn, will drive business leaders' ambition. This circular loop is self-sustaining. He used two examples, both from the United States. One was of an Appalachian Power executive that say no to building a new coal plant in West Virginia, in lieu of alternative energy generation methods, recognizing that the current period, where facilities are converting all of their coal plants to gas, is not the time to be building new coal plants, despite the supply of coal provided in West Virginia. The second example was from the CEO of Shell, who is pushing for faster decision on fossil-fuel engine phase out. He made the case that the lack of a timeline now or lack of uncertainty is making long-term business forecasting and business plan development harder than if they just had a mandate to work with. (They see it as an eventuality and just want to have an end point so that they can provide motivation for investors in Shell to support the development of alternatives. Now the attitude is more of a “we'll revisit is next year….”)

High-Level Session: Third High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance
Sadly, I walked into this one a little late, the conference call for the day job running an hour longer than planned. The discussion was very pointed and not one on climate science or even environmental policy. Instead, it focused on the roll of financial integration with achieving climate goals. The conversation I caught was that from France and the summary at the end.
The French representative stated that climate change needs engagement from more than just Environmental Ministries to succeed, as both in development and impact, it is much more than an environmental issue. In general, the flow of finance to climate change projects is increasing, but not fast enough. (The impacts are outpacing the adaptations.) She recommended using lending incentives to drive low carbon investments.
The session moderator offered the following three common strands from all of the individual presentations:
  • To succeed, there needs to be a “wholer” government approach, involving more than just the environmental and energy sectors.
  • Clarity, transparency, and predictability in policies will lead to confidence in the investment market. All the lack of this does is drive uncertainty and an overall lack of buy-in. (This was the second time I heard this message – see the business innovation discussion above.)
  • We are in the habit of providing delayed action plans (5 to 10 year plans/goals). We need to transform into shorter timelines or nearer, more frequency objectives and provide transformational actions.
  • There needs to be a driver to revamp fiscal policies to make sure they are in line with environmental policies.
The Future of Wine: Bordeaux 2050
This initiative was started by a journalist that, in reviewing all of the climate discussions and that lack of individual buy-in to the process, determined it was necessary to put the message in terms that people see to personal as them. Being in France, what better message than the wine that they love so much. (He commented that the average French person drinks one glass of wine a day – that equates to 42 Liters of wine per year!) I found this talk very engaging because it addresses a problem that we at the Association have faced – gaining a broader buy-in to our climate change discussions that have, over recent years, struggled as politics has driven the conversation more and more. And let's be honest, it's about wine, something near and dear to many of our hearts.
Stemming from this idea, he worked with wine-makers and the Ministry of the Environment to put together the project referred to as Bordeaux 2050. I'll do my best to summarize it here and feel free to take a look at their promotional video at this site: Unfortunately, I can't share the actual wine tasting with you, so you will just have to take my word for it.
Factors driving the predicted change to the beloved Bordeaux wine by 2050 include:
  • The temperature variation - winters are cooler and, on average, the overall temperature is 1.5°C higher in the past 100 years.
  • The seasonal changes (spring transitioning to shorter periods and summer extending) are affecting their growing cycle. They typically need 6 to 8 weeks vegetation and between balancing late frost against the rapid transition to summer conditions, the available window is shrinking.
  • More rain in the spring that they do have is leading to increased chance of mildew, which is detrimental to the grapes and taste.
  • Less rain in the summer makes the grapes themselves less “fruity” and “juicy”.
  • An overall brighter sun increases the chance of sunburn on the grapes.
  • Hail, occurring more frequently, due to the increased occurrence of strong storms, damages the vines and grapes.
They are not just sitting by and watching this happen, but the rate of change in the wine adaptation process is much slower than the rate of impacts on the wine. For example, the vines that are being planted today are those that will be harvested in 2050. If these vines are impacted by these changes over the length of their growing cycle, the wine will very much be different than the vines from which these sprouts are provided. Some of the adaptations that they are working on are:
  • Adapting the varieties of grapes that are used.
  • Adapting the root stock.
  • Modifying agricultural practices.
  • Adapting the legislation that limits what Bordeaux vineyards can do.

If these adaptation techniques are not successful, the area in France in which Bordeaux wines can be grown will be drastically changed. In the figure shown, the red area is that area in France in which Bordeaux is currently grown. The blue area is the area in France that would still be suitable for making Bordeaux in 2050.

Classic Bordeaux is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet grapes. They did research and compared this blend to wines that are being grown in regions with climates similar to those predicted for France in 2050. Using these comparisons, they worked with a very well-respective vintner to actually make a Bordeaux blend grown under those same conditions.
Now the tasting parts comes in and you'll just have to take my word for it (as well as the opinion of others that had the opportunity to do the tasting):
  • Bordeaux is a very full-bodied wine. The 2050 version is noticeably very thin and weak.
  • In addition to the body, one of the biggest differences (and disappointments) I noticed was the acidity. Bordeaux is a smooth wine – it does not bite you and certainly isn't overly acidic. The 2050 vintage was very acidic to the point that honestly I could not have drank an entire glass without getting major indigestion from all of the acid.
  • Bordeaux is very aromatic. Per one of the taster's “the smell [of the 2050 vintage] copied the taste.” It had a very diminished aroma.
While building a wine tasting into a climate change conference was fun, the message is a very serious one. Wine making and wine transitions are a very slow process, as climate adaptation policies and actions seem to be – these two factors together will spell the decline if not outright death of Bordeaux wine. Faster action and shorter policy implementation is necessary.

Michele's Monologue – Monday, 10 December 2018
Well it's Monday and already my Katowice adventure has been just that. I'll skip over the details of the hotel reservation that wasn't and get to the point of this morning, where I awoke in hotel number two that is further away and off the main bus and tram route. In a town where parking is limited and there is a sudden influx of 30,000 people, this makes the 30-km journey to and from my hotel to the conference interesting. I ordered my Uber (yes, Uber) at 0730 and by 0800, it had gotten about half way here when a magical cab showed up outside. Me and the two random strangers that were with me jumped on the opportunity and took our magic cab. Said magic cab lost its magic about the time we got stuck in rush-hour traffic. Hopefully the next magic cab will be equipped with a rotor that can lift us above the nightmarish traffic into the city. But alas, we made it in eventually – arriving at about 0900!

The conference has talked about the effort they made to keep people from waiting outside in the cold. So, as would be expected, the first thing we did was wait outside in the cold for the security line inside to clear up a bit.

Despite its size, the security line moved quickly and, as luck would have it, I ran into fellow A&WMA member Jack Broadbent for a brief moment while my cue passed his. From security, it was time to get in the registration line, where we found a lost passport, turned it in, and, as we saw a poor Indonesian man literally sweating it out when he realized it was gone, happily saw that the two were reunited.

All credentialed up, I finally made it into the general conference area at 0945! This was a bit disappointing as there was a talk I wanted to hear at 0900, but adapt and overcome, as they say.

I was not prepared for the size and complexity of this conference. It's BIG, I mean really BIG, both in terms of attendees, sessions, and space. At any one time, there are thousands of people running many different directions to sessions that may or may not be advertised and that are located in one of eight different buildings. Today, my video will walk you through a small portion of this – the country pavilion – at light speed and without the accompanying bumps and bruises. Tomorrow, I'll take you on a journey from Building A all the way to Building H.
In addition, to the size, the conference is extremely chaotic and not all that well organized. For example, our environmental NGO meeting today was either double-booked or crashed by another organization that decided they had the room too and the team of room organizers had no clue how it happened. Sessions are advertised in a series of different ways but no true “one-stop-shop” exists to figure it all out. Furthermore, those sessions that are advertised are being rescheduled and moved around throughout the day. So, here's to big places, lots of people, and crazy chaos!
All that said, it's a really good meeting and an amazing thing to participate in. The breadth of people that are here is incredible. There is a HUGE student presence. There are small policy-makers, big policy-makers, industry-makers, and contingents from every corner of the globe. While I was sitting on the concrete floor for a two-hour conference call (my quiet, isolated corner), an environmental minister came by on his way to a negotiation, saw me, and came back with a glass of water.
My adventures today, absent the commute in the morning and sessions throughout the day, included:
  • Swinging a giant inflatable gavel for the Korean student contingent
  • Hunting down the free food that is randomly dropped by the free food fairies (today it was in the Polish pavilion)
  • Watching “The Daily Fossil” stage show, which pokes fun at those slow to act and includes a man dressed in an inflatable dinosaur costume
  • Making new acquaintances from all over the globe, joining in engaging conversations and laughing in many different languages.
  • Directing our Polish cab driver to our hotel in German, because he didn't speak English and just started speaking to me in German. (Apparently, I'm spending enough time there to just look like I speak it now). Fortunately, I speak German quite well and spent last week serving as the translator for a work trip throughout Germany. So I'm writing this from my hotel instead of some random location in Poland.
  • Measuring up the snow that joined us this evening in the parking lot!

I am exhausted from it all, and it's only Day 1! According to my phone, I logged 4.5 miles and 11,000 steps and climbed 10 floors. COP24, offering it all – a full technical program, unbelievable networking opportunities, and an accompanying workout program! Perhaps tomorrow I'll take a powernap in the magical Zen hammock garden they have.
As I write this, I'm winding down for the evening, drinking a glass of French wine in my Polish hotel and listening to a band cover American pop songs. #Alwaysanadventure.

About the Author: Michele E. Gehring, P.E., is President-Elect of the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA). She has been a member of A&WMA since 2001. Before being elected President, Gehring served on the Association's Board of Directors for three years, was Vice President of the Association for two consecutive years, and served as Vice-Chair of the Sections and Chapters Council. She has also served on her local Chapter and section boards since 2007. Gehring is a licensed professional engineer and principal of Coterie Environmental LLC, an environmental and engineering consulting firm specializing in combustion systems and serving clients from throughout the Continental United States. She has spent her entire career working in the combustion industry, performing engineering studies, developing compliance programs, and overseeing emissions testing initiatives.