After arriving by train in Paris last night, I immediately travelled through to the COP venue at Le Bourget, which is just outside of the city centre. The whole train ride was hopelessly delayed because of copper thefts on the Belgium railroad. But thinking I could quickly swing by the COP to register before my dinner appointment proved a bit naïve. The heads of state were still arriving and leaving Le Bourget causing more congestions and, just like the train ride, I found myself again sitting in public transportation that was not really moving. But the registration was necessary as the next day I needed to be presenting at the COP in the early morning and I wanted to avoid the large registration lines. Two hours later I was back in the city centre, all registered, to meet Bas Arts who has been blogging about the COP in the previous blogs.
This morning, I embarked again on the public transport connection to Le Bourget and found the same congestions, but this time it was the normal morning rush hour. Paris is huge and even big events like the COP are completely swallowed by this city. This is just something all people present at the COP have to deal with for the coming two weeks.
Today was my most important event of the COP: the presentation of the Wageningen University climate research at the Netherlands Climate Pavilion. This is a very welcome opportunity for Wageningen researchers to present their current findings on climate at this global platform. The presentation included 5 different presentations on policy and governance, soils, REDD+, European Forestry and Climate Smart Agriculture. This was tied together with the Wageningen statement on climate change: to meet future food and biodiversity demands, higher production levels while greenhouse gasses emissions need to be reduced. This meeting should have been kicked off by Louise Fresco but she was not able to make it. The Belgium copper thefts that seriously delayed my train ride yesterday made it impossible for her to be present in Paris.
After the presentation, I encountered the next congestion as I was queuing the line in the restaurant, I thought about the COP and the effect the logistical aspects have had on it so far. I was wondering if the scale of the COP was just too big. How will you get a climate agreement if negotiators struggle to get to the venue? But the COP 21 in Paris have thought of this and developed an Meet-Me. This allows you to locate yourself on the COP site or to easily find your colleagues and friends.
Ten minutes later as I was walking down the “Champs Elysees”, the main avenue that connects all the different halls of the COP21, I almost directly bumped into a colleague that I was looking for anyway. Just like that and without making use of the Meet-Me app! Immediately, the COP seemed less big.
Negotiations have now fully started. Although for an outsider without access to these negotiations it feels like it is still only beginning. From time to time, you see large groups of journalist, security guards, and other people walking the corridors with in the middle of that group some head of state, often dressed in his traditional gown. I nearly bumped into the King of Sweden today at the Nordic Climate Solution pavilion. Prince Charles gave a speech on forests. I witnessed an indigenous Ecuadorian man, in traditional dress and with traditional face tattoos, giving a heartfelt speech about Mother Earth. All kinds of people of importance are showing their face and making statements. At a certain moment, these famous people leave and then it will be just the negotiators and us, the observers. The COP will also in that perspective become less big.
No real news from me on the progress of the negotiations yet as we are all settling in. Most of us are meeting up with people they know, sharing their insights, taste the atmosphere, and perhaps like me getting to accustomed to the logistics. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!