Day 9 from COP 24 in Katowice: Gender Day

COP 24—A&WMA President-Elect, Michele Gehring, attends several sessions with a focus on female involvement in the climate change discussion, including Gender – Raising Ambition and Changing Lives; Climate Action in the Travel Sector; and Empowering Female Negotiators.
Day 9 - Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The snowfall seems to have brought a sense of calm to the conference today, either that or half of the attendees are still working off their festivities from last night. Regardless, there seems to be a bit more order to things and that is certainly welcomed. Today is “Gender Day” at COP 24, so many of the sessions I summarize will have a gender-related vibe to them. It's also the resumption of the high-level talks. All observers are welcomed to attend the opening meeting and I've provided a summary below. Unfortunately, the subsequent high-level statements are limited in attendees and those tickets are hard to come by for observers. Fortunately, there are plenty of other activities going on to follow. Today, I was able to sit in sessions on:
  • Talanoa Dialogue Opening Meeting
  • Gender – Raising Ambition and Changing Lives
  • Climate Action in the Travel Sector
  • Empowering Female Negotiators
My notes from each are provided below.

High Level Session – Talanoa Dialogue Opening Meeting
The Talanoa Dialogue was introduced at COP 23 in Fiji as a way to encourage and facilitate non-party participation in the political negotiations and discussions on Climate Change. “Talanoa” is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. Participants in the dialogue were asked to address three main questions relative to climate change response:
  • Where are we?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?
Today's forum focused more on the responses to the final of these questions, with the first two being largely addressed through prior conversations. Happy to report I started this session with headset in hand, so no shortness of notes due to interpretation issues.
The President of COP 24 opened the session by welcoming participants, thanking them for their input and, indicating that the most consistent and loudest message received from the Dialogue so far was that leaders and policy-makers need to develop and transmit clear signals on policy, implementation, and expected impacts in order to show confidence and inspire ambition. He commented that this channel of communication has proved just as valuable to the climate change proceedings as have the formal negotiations and discussions. The COP 23 President, who initiated the Talanoa effort, provided a bit of a more drilled&‘down summary of the messages received so far:
  • The Dialogue allowed the COP to hear stories of real impacts and real solutions rather than just study scientific data.
  • It is clear through these stories that people are suffering the impacts of climate change today and a continued slow, forward path is no longer acceptable.
  • Climate action is on the rise but not at the scale and pace necessary to meet the Paris 2°C target, the 1.5°C aspiration, or the zero emission objectives.
  • Despite this, individuals, scientists, engineers, and non-government organizations are optimistic that solutions can be found but action needs to be immediate and there needs to be buy-in and drive provided by government leadership.
After these introductory statements and a welcome from the UNFCC Executive Secretary, Ms. Patricia Espinosa, we were then provided an overview of key messages on:
  • The IPCC Special Report on warming of 1.5°C
  • The Global Climate Action Event from last week
  • The Finance High-Level Event from this week
  • The Pre-2020 Ambition Stocktake from last week and this week
Final commentary prior to the Talanoa panel was provided by Lauren Fabius, France's Foreign Minister, president of the UN-sponsored Paris climate change summit, and one of the primary forces in successful adoption of the Paris agreement.
IPCC Special Report
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 8, 2018. The report was an effort by over 90 authors from 40 different countries and includes references to over 6,000 scientific studies. It discusses the proposed impacts resulting from a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels. In their report, the IPCC indicates that:
  • We can achieve the 2020 temperature goals, but it will require unprecedented actions. Currently, we are not on track to meet established targets. They can be achieved but it requires immediate action to do so.
  • In regards to achieving a net zero scenario by 2050, the report identifies that a rapid transition would be required across all sectors. Achieving this objective would be unprecedented and would require the combination of technology, behavior and investment. To have the most impact, the largest reductions would need to be achieved prior to 2030.
  • Pathways are available to achieve both objectives, but the later we wait to do something, the less options remain.
  • There is no single recipe for success.
The summary of the report was concluded with the following statement: “The scientific community has delivered, governments now need to take action.”
Global Climate Action
Two publications were released recently from the global climate action: Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2018, and Summary for Policy Makers 2018. Both can be downloaded from the UNFCCC website. In these documents, they have provided examples from all over the world of climate action successes. They have demonstrated that climate efforts are significant and global, with contributions from over 9,000 cities and 240 states and regions. Information is provided on:
  • Good practices and policies;
  • Technologies and/or actions that can help improve efficiencies or implement adaptations;
  • Common challenges that have been faced; and
  • Actions that policy makers can take.
In total, the documents reflect input from 12,000 stakeholders and identify 20,000 actions that have been applied throughout the world.
Finance High-Level Event
The finance high-level event addressed two main issues: translating needs into action and securing and distributing funds. There was a discussion about the need to reset the financial system and to provide a balance to the quality and quantity of investments. In addition, there was a general consensus that finance policies need to be aligned with climate change policies to ensure the greatest success going forward. Clarity is also important to investment. In addition, there needs to be a concerted effort to identify risks for funding of climate action projects and to provide lenders and investors tools to manage and mitigate these risks.
Pre-2020 Ambition Stocktake
The objective of the stocktake was to provide an update on the continued efforts of the Parties in their progress towards 2020 objectives. The overall message is that we are making progress but not fast enough and there is a concern that the 2020 objectives will slip beyond 2020. We need to better foster ambition and drive it to action. There remains a continued emphasis on the need for financing of climate action and this seems to be one of the main reasons the leadership was providing for lack of progress. I don't know that all of the Parties agree with that, as there is also a lot of policy and other implementation delays that have been a source of complaint in these meetings; however, as explained in one of my updates yesterday, without ambition and buy-in from investors, the market will not respond in the fashion required to ensure progress. The finance market would argue that they need clarity of policy and direction to find this ambition. (So, it seems to be a bit of a circular problem at this point). The closing comments on this update were that we know what needs to be done, how to do it, and when it must be done for success to happen but accomplishing the end objective needs to be a collective effort.
Lauren Fabius Commentary
Think of this like the big voice at the pep rally. The clear intent of his commentary was to provide motivation and hopefully generate ambition heading into the dialogue. He provided four key items that he believes COP 24 needs to achieve for it to be successful:
  • Provide a clear rulebook for the Paris agreement
  • Define reporting and transparency
  • Confirm agreement on the 1.5°C necessity
  • Confirm agreement on a net zero emissions model.
He then echoed the prior messages that we are not on track to meet the 2020 objectives, stating the carbon emissions actually showed a 2 percent increase for 2018 as opposed to the decrease that has been determined necessary. He also said we have plenty of evidence to show that every ½ degree we can move the global thermometer does have an impact. He concurred that there is still a small window for success but that such success will require unprecedented and drastic emission reductions. He defined unprecedented as a rapid and steep response across all sectors that are contributing to the global climate problem. He reminded the audience that the Paris agreement was never intended to the be end of the story but rather a turning point for the story we are in that sends us off in a new, more positive direction.
Talanoa Panel
The Talanoa panel consisted of three members, one representing indigenous peoples, one from Poland, and one from Iceland. Those from Poland and Iceland provided concrete examples of the progress made and challenges faced via implementation of climate projects within their countries.
The Minister provided a review of Polish history from a climate perspective:
  • 1970s – Poland is dependent upon the Soviets and is heavily engaged, especially in this region, in mining activities, with over 100,000 people working in the mining industry.
  • 1980s – The coal industry is at an all-time high, with CO2 emissions from coal alone exceeding 470 million tons annually.
  • 1990s – Referred to as the transformation period, Poland was emerging from Soviet rule, starting to develop their own policies, and recognizing the need to transition from these environmentally burdensome technologies.
Today, Poland still has a steep hill to climb but is starting to recognize tangible results from their efforts. They have made two big strides, one in the transportation industry and one in home heating.
  • Transportation – They have established an electromobility fund and are in the process of transforming their public transit systems to use e-buses, two brands of which are manufactured in Poland.
  • Home heating – The majority of single-family homes in Poland are fueled on coal, as it was by far the most readily available home heating fuel. They are trying to change this but that is a slow process. Instead, their initial efforts are focused on reducing home heat consumption and thereby reducing the amount of coal used in home heating. If they can achieve a 50 percent reduction in home heating consumption, they can decrease CO2 emissions by 18 to 20 million tons per year.
Iceland has made two energy transitions in the last century: transforming their electric grid to hydroelectric and geothermal sources and changing their district heating systems to geothermal. At this point, all energy consumption in Iceland is fueled with renewable sources. All of these efforts were started with individuals taking ownership of the problem and driving solutions. Those solutions were then provided to the municipalities, who worked with the states to gain funding. This process has not been without challenges. The Minister cited three main challenges they faced:
  • Geothermal technologies were not easy to master. They needed to be persistent and (in her words) stubborn in their resolve.
  • Funding. They relied on foreign loans and made partnerships with the power intensive industries. Those industries are now using 80 percent of the energy from the resulting grid and therefore the benefit to the investors was easier to document.
  • Natural resource protection. They have now made such a transition to renewable sources that they are struggling with a balance between renewable consumption and protection of natural resources.
The next phase in Iceland will be the transition of their transportation sector. By 2040, Iceland hopes to achieve carbon neutrality.

Gender – Raising Ambition and Changing Lives
This panel discussion was intended to highlight how positive ambition can be used to drives societal and climate changes. Four different panelists were included in the discussion, one from Africa, one from India, one from Egypt, and one from Colombia.
The panelist from Egypt was a young engineer, who talked about her challenge of finding a job in a manufacturing facility after graduating with her engineering degree. It took her four years to find placement because Egyptian manufacturers have decided it is difficult and expensive to have women onsite in an industrial facility. She said the two major reasons cited were safety of women in a plant and a lack of appropriate restroom facilities for women in their plants. She was eventually successful in her mission, but it required persistence and resolve.
The panelist from Colombia said her career was hindered because she was not able to participate in the male professional groups that conversed about the industry happenings and policy. So, she started her own and made it exclusive to women. The group grew to a size that men started to ask if they could join and participate and they have now opened it to both male and female “members.”
The panelist from India spoke about the financial limitations faced by women entrepreneurs in India and their inability to secure financing without a male counterpart. She said this is starting to change, with micro-lenders offering options for women, albeit at a higher interest rate. However, she said these micro&‘lenders are, through their lending, allowing women borrowers to work their way into the mainstream funding market. She said overall, the banks are discriminating because women, as a gender, do not have a strong repayment history (not because of a poor payment history but a lack of one in general).
There was a discussion on statistical analyses of various economic sectors. The commenters indicate that the data demonstrates that women, making comparable money to their male counterparts, will funnel a larger fraction of that income back to the betterment of the community. Women also, according to the studies, tend to make their success more about how they have improved the community, sector, industry, etc., rather than about the dollar signs they have put in their own checkbook. This, in turn, results in a shift in the socio-economic norm and can make a substantial difference. There was a story relayed about a factory in India that intentionally sought out uneducated, poor women for workers in their manufacturing company and made a program to promote them from the assembly line up to assembly supervisors and beyond, and how this factory's policies in turn changed the entire socio-economic culture of the town in which it was situated. (This goes back to the business driving innovation and policy conversation that I covered in my notes yesterday).
Climate Action in the Travel Sector
This session consisted of members from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), with representatives from the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the International Tourism Partners (ITP), Hilton Corporation, Amadeus Software Corporation, and Global Himalayan Adventures (GHA). The WTTC provided an opening overview of the group's initiatives and then each individual organization talked about their programs. This is the first time that the WTTC has participated in a COP meeting.
The WTTC representative provided some background on the tourism industry and discussed the large market share that the industry represents – the travel and tourism industry represents 10.5 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and provides 1 in every 5 jobs throughout the world. These points were raised to emphasize the range of impact the industry has and the resulting change to the climate situation that they can make with a focused climate initiative. Very recently, the WTTC and its member companies adopted a climate strategy, stemming from their sustainability growth initiatives.
That strategy has three main commitments:
  • Development and implementation of a consumer campaign;
  • Identification of WTTC partners with strong sustainability programs and direction to replicate their practices through other partners; and
  • Hosting of an annual Travel and Tourism Climate Change Summit and publication of an annual Pulse report. Their next summit will be in Seville Spain in April 2019.
ATAG is an industry group that brings together airlines, airports, and airline manufacturers for climate change initiatives. The main target for action within the ATAG group is the transition to renewable fuels and an increase in fuel efficiency, as the electric charged 777 is a bit more challenging target. In 2008, the group set a target to reduce the 2005 CO2 emissions from the industry by 50 percent by 2050. Since 2009, they have invested $1 trillion on new fuel-efficient aircraft. They have found that sustainable aviation fuel results in the emission of 85 percent less CO2 than traditional aircraft fuel over the life cycle. They have set a target to increase fuel efficiency by 1.5% per year by 2020 and are exceeding this target. They also aim to be carbon neutral by 2020.
ITP is an industry group representing the hotel sector. They traditionally represent the bigger hotel chains, which represent approximately 15 percent of the hotel industry. They are, as a group, working to establish and achieve emission reduction goals. Primary drivers in emissions for the hotel industry are air conditioning systems, laundry facilities, kitchens, and guest rooms. In the past year, they have demonstrated an overall emissions reduction of 6.8 percent.
After the ITP discussion, Hilton spoke specifically about the climate programs they have in place. They have established emission reductions goal and energy reduction goals for all of their chains on a percentage per square foot basis and have instilled guest incentives. They were criticized for their emission reduction targets, as the audience called it a falsely leading objective, commenting that an increase in the overall square footage of property owned will result in lower to no actual reductions (depending upon the square foot increases). Outside of their individual property goals and customer usage of their systems, they identify supply chains as another major impact area and are working to identify and team with suppliers that have strong climate action programs in place. Ways in which they are achieving these strategies at properties include the use of solar power, hydroponic food production, energy efficient laundry systems, and consumer behavior modification.
The Amadeus and GHA comments were greatly shortened due to extensive discussion with the hotel groups. The general messages portrayed were very narrow in scope and not very well defined.
Empowering Female Negotiators
I'll begin by noting that I was very disappointed in this session – it was poorly organized and missed out on an opportunity to provide good information on how to empower negotiators. The focus was on limited success stories relative to UN negotiators and did not offer tremendous take-aways from those stories. A few items that did emerge that I would like to see us work into our women's professional development program and, as applicable, to our overall professional development offerings:
  • Mentoring – Each speaker emphasized the role that a mentor played in their rise and success as a UN negotiator. The mentor-mentee relationship and continuous dialogue of that relationship is important.
  • Balance – Commenters suggested there is a need to force a conscious and continuous gender balance.
  • Training – Some speakers commented on the value that women-directed training programs offered to them on their path.

Michele's Monologue – Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It snowed last night and is continuing to snow throughout the day today. No worries – just a light snow and one to which everyone in Poland is accustomed; although by every account this happens much less frequently than it used to. Fortunately, absent getting to the conference and getting back home from it, you never really have to go outside. Everything is connected via temporary tunnel structures with space heaters in them. Quite cozy really.
My conference buddy, a graduate student from Yale, and I are learning to work the transport system. We ordered our Uber when we sat down for breakfast, ate until it came, and got out much earlier than yesterday, when we waited over 30 minutes and still took the magical cab instead of the Uber. In addition, the driver took a back way today that seemed to eliminate a lot of the traffic. End result, after a short walk through the snow because the driver couldn't figure out how to get to the drop off area, we were walking into the conference facilities bright and early shortly after they opened at 0800. I haven't gotten to play in the snow yet this year, so I'll take the walk down the snowy street as a positive as well. All of this was a very welcomed change from the chaos and perpetual circus that yesterday provided us. As I mentioned in my technical summary, either the attendees are still sleeping of their fun from last night, or others haven't quite mastered the transportation game yet.
Today is Gender Day, with a focus on female involvement in the Climate Change discussion. We at A&WMA have a Women's Professional Development program and it's always interesting to see the way other groups tackle the same issues. As I walk the halls, there seems to be a solid balance between the two genders. However, the delegate list, the high-level sessions, and the gender-focused discussions are providing a bit of a different story. Women are not completely absent from the delegations and the high-level table, but they are extremely outnumbered. This morning's high-level panel of UN climate change leadership had one female representative. Now, she's happens to be the UNFCCC Executive Secretary and is a wonderful representative of women succeeding in the global environment, but she's definitely outnumbered. I don't see this as much in the United States anymore and it's a reminder that other countries are not quite as far as long at closing the gender gap that we are. We on the A&WMA Women's Professional Development Council need to work this into our messaging as we move forward.
This week being all about realizations, today has drawn me to conclude that your President-Elect is short for Polish standards (maybe all standards). The chairs, couches, and roundtable seating areas in this place are all made for people with much longer legs than me. So, I either find myself sitting on the edge of my seat (literally) or looking like a two-year old in a big girl chair. Honestly, in most cases, I've opted for the two-year old look, as it provides the comfort of a backrest! I'll have to get you a picture of this tomorrow.
After a busy morning of sitting in on the opening of the Talanoa Dialogue and running to a few smaller sessions, I hit up the grab and go lunch counter for another vegetarian sandwich. There is a big push for people to go vegetarian or vegan within the climate community and the menu at the grab and go counters reflects it. (If you'd like to know more about the reasoning behind the push, I suggest you google it, you'll find plenty of opinions). With no disrespect intended to those championing it, I'll never get there – I love my steak and Bordeaux a bit too much. But, anyone can adapt for a week and I'm certain it's not an unhealthy adaptation.
After charging up on my mozzarella and tomato sandwich, I hit another series of sessions before heading back to the hotel. If you're keeping track, I only logged 4 miles, 9,700 steps, and climbed 5 floors today. I'll try to do better tomorrow. A portion of those steps were gained in making another video for our members to enjoy. Today, I walk you through the length of the entire conference – well most of it – I didn't tackle the press wing or the NGO offices wing. Come along for the ride! It's quite the journey, even in a time-lapse video. I even caught an unsuspecting A&WMA member in the video – find him and there's a special prize in it for you! (He doesn't even know I caught him).

As I walk down the stairs and close the book on my second day at COP24, I'm exhausted. This conference really does take you from early morning to late night, with little rest in between. But I'm also looking forward to tomorrow. Another day of new faces, old faces, and new adventures. I can't wait to share it with you!
About the Author: Michele 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, Michele 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. Michele is a licensed professional engineer and principal of Coterie Environmental LLC, an environmental and engineering consulting firm specializing in hazardous waste management systems and serving clients from throughout the Continental United States. She has spent her entire career working in the waste management and air compliance industry, performing engineering studies, developing compliance programs, and overseeing emissions testing initiatives.