Most people following this COP think of Poland/Coaland, and while they are well justified to feel that way, there is more to the story than meets the eye, some of it good, some of it not so good.
Its true that the Polish government has partnered with 11 major comapnies (including two of the worlds worst polluters) to sponsor this COP, and the most distinguishing feature of this COP has been the integration of business interests into the climate change negotiating space. It is also true that Poland presently derives over 90% of its electrcity from coal, with plans for further expansion. But is also true that the country has reduced carbon emssions by over 30% since the fall of the wall, and particulate matter by over 70%. In my discussion with Malgorzata Skucha from National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Managemen (NFEP&WM) we covered in great detail the steps that Poland has taken over the last 20 years, and how they planning on taking things forward.
While I dont agree with the plans for coal expansion, the fund that she works with is focused on investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and they are doing a good job of it too. The fund derives its income from charging businesses for environmental services, which eg then uses to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects at municipal level. Because Polish municipalities don’t make any profit from energy sales and because there are charges for environmental services there is a strong incentive for municiaplities to decentralise and become more sustainable on a broad level. Malgorzata was very keen for me to share their learnings with government back in SA and she gave me a wealth of (electronic) information for use back home. It will be interesting to see how much we can apply.
My meeting with Koko Warner from Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability & Adaptation section of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS) was even more interesting. They are developing a non-profit insurance model to help villagers affected by climate change impacts remain financially protected. They have been piloting thr programme in the Caribbean and they are interested in moving into sub-Saharan Africa. The model is designed to slot on to existing savings: Projects, like our Stokvels, or Slum Dwellers International (SDI’s) FEDUP savings schemes. We discussed various ways to include additional components, like climate smart perma-culture as well as financial literacy training and small enterprise development. Given my recent discussions with Santam about their Business adopt a Municipality (BAAM) programme, I am quite keen to see what the potential is to firstly, financially protect people affected by climate change that have had no part in causing it. And secondly, investigate the potential to piggy back on their idea to roll-out climate resiliance training in communities across the region.
All in all, while the negotiators sit at logger-heads in plenary sessions, we kept moving forward on the outside.
Gray Maguire, Project 90 by 2030