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The climate and all that jazz: a report-back from COP24

20th December 2018

Topic(s): COP24

Should you have a penchant for jazz, as I do, you will know that Poland, the host of this year’s 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24), left an indelible mark on this musical genre.

Since the 1930s, clubs in Warsaw, Krakow and Katowice (the host of this year’s annual climate change jamboree) played a type of swing influenced by American popular music – Gershwin, Brubeck and anything picked up on US shortwave radio.

Post-communism, it developed a style of its own, sometimes lush, lilting and romantic, often free-form, intellectual and unpredictable, but always forging new pathways and re-writing the rule book.

Such was this year’s United Nations Conference of the Parties, a marathon dance of 25,000 people stopping, starting, weaving and oscillating across a kilometer of overheated landscape (30 degrees inside, minus-zero outside, as if to mimic the unpredictable weather patterns of the past year).

This year’s COP was devoted to agreeing the rule book that began in Paris in 2015. The task: Get 195 nations to agree binding and transparent commitments to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees.

It was a slow start to a complex jitterbug and the task seemed like a tall order amidst US, Russian, Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti procrastinations over what was ultimately “wordsmithery”; whether they would “welcome” the recent and revelationary Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 Degree Report, or simply “note it”. They chose the latter causing all manner of hue and cry.

This came as Leslie Hook, the clean energy correspondent at the Financial Times published new data confirming that in 2018, CO2 emissions accelerated at their fastest rate in seven years - surging 2.7 per cent globally in this year alone.

The Global CCS Institute was at COP again to raise the profile of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an intrinsic clean technology that needs to work alongside all others if climate change targets are to be achieved.

The annual launch of our flagship Global Status of CCS Report at a dedicated media conference drew a near capacity audience, a sign perhaps that the IPCC’s identification of CCS as necessary in three of its four 1.5 degree pathways, has shone a new light on the technology and created a “buzz”.

Then there was the fact that over the past year, more than 18 high profile individuals from all walks of life have put their signatures where their hearts are, endorsing CCS as fundamental to a decarbonized future.

These include Hollywood cinematographer Paul Atkins (Master and Commander), former US Navy Secretary, Senator John Warner, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch (and head of the UN’s Department of Climate Change Crisis), Archbishop Serafim Kykotis.

It also included the youngest person to ever ski to the North and South Poles, 17-year old Australian Jade Hameister, whose image was beamed across electronic billboards strewn across the Katowice skyline, proclaiming: “We must embrace CCS like our lives depend on it. Because they do.”

This was a deliberately new play by us to remind conference attendees that CCS, with 18 large-scale facilities in operation, and a further 25 in construction and development, is real, happening and here to stay.

Our four major side-events at COP24, held in the China, UK, Japan and International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) pavilions, plus a dedicated media dinner, sparked new conversations amongst the world’s leading climate change commentators, including Time Magazine (USA), The Financial Times (UK) Asahi Shimbun (Japan) and the Times of India.

Questions were fielded by Global CCS Institute CEO, Brad Page, Shell Climate Change Chief Adviser, Ian Hone, and Carbon Wrangler CEO, Dr Julio Friedmann.

Resulting reportage was fulsome and generally favorable:

In a Washington Post story headlined, “Carbon Removal is now a thing”, reporters Steven Mufson and Brady Dennis wrote:

“Fueled by glum reports about the trajectory of global carbon emissions, more and more businesses, policymakers and researchers are coming to the same conclusion: The world must improve and commercialize methods to capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it or find practical uses for it.”

Graham Lloyd in the Australian (“Voice of Youth Grow Impatient with Leaders”), focused on the rise of youth in the climate change debate:

“The sobering fact is every scenario analysed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5C report envisages the use of CCS. There is not really any other pathway for heavily emitting industrial processes such as cement and steel.”

He continued: “Hameister didn’t make it to Poland but says she is happy to be in the face of delegates on billboards at Katowice airport and around town. “I wasn’t paid anything for supporting CCS, but I have met their senior team and I believe their technology is a key part of building a bridge to a carbon-free world in the next 30 to 40 years. Let’s hope the leaders in Poland can agree and implement real change.”

Journalist, Amy Harder from Axios, who also attended our dinner, invited Climate Reality Founder, Al Gore, to comment, on CCS.

“You’re not buying the CCS nonsense are you? ... Are you?” he asked.

Harder replied: “Well, I don’t buy anything, as an unbiased reporter.” She went on to say:

“Gore’s remarks, made during an interview with Axios on Wednesday, put him at odds with a number of experts and scientists. A seminal report issued in October by a United Nations scientific panel found the technology, which captures carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, to be critical to keeping global temperatures below a level that would avoid the worst impacts of a warmer world.”

US Think Tank, Third Way, responded with a story headed: "Al Gore missed the memo: There's nothing nonsensical about carbon capture." It concluded that CCS was needed if we want to hit our climate goals.

These stories elevated the CCS discussion, forming a bundle of CCS stories which, although not always positive, raise the debate and level of understanding.

On my last night in Katowice, I hailed a cab to Jazz Club Hipnoza, a seminal club in jazz circles and recommended to me by the owners of local and ridiculously hard-to-to find record store, Komis Plytowy.

It is below zero, and snowing as I am dropped off in an uninhabited square. I ask the way from the only person in sight, a cleaner, washing the steps of an old theatre. She points to a dingy stairwell next door and in a kind of sign-language mimes the words: “Three floors up”.

Inside, it is cavernous but conversely, cosy. I sit beneath a gigantic trumpet that looks like it is holding up the roof. Given my exhaustion, it could be holding up me.

There is no live band tonight but the club is playing an iconic record by the King of Polish jazz, Krzysztof Komeda, a disparate album called “Astigmatic” spanning all conceivable jazz styles - but mostly his own. Released in 1966, it is considered a bellweather for European jazz and amongst the 1001 jazz albums you should hear before you die.

It is the perfect end to a relentless but fulfilling week and one which we, as a team, believe was the most successful COP for CCS to date. One of us, my colleagues, John Scowcroft, has been to every single one so he should know.

In a country, notorious for its abundance and dependence on coal, something happened.

Katowice became the bellweather, in a year of weird weather, for new climate consensus, change and inclusion.

There is, maybe now, a greater awareness that climate change needs to play a new kind of jazz which incorporates all styles and instruments, of which CCS must be one.

By Antonios Papaspiropoulos, Global Lead Advocacy and Communications at the Global CCS Institute

Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

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