On this cold December morning, I peeled myself out of the warm bed and prepared for my first day of COP24. It was my 3rd full day in Poland, having attended the second and third day of COY 14, and newly reunited with my lost suitcase just the night before. I held myself to have somewhat low expectations going into COP, believing that maybe I could trick my mind into enjoying cheap thrills of satisfaction. Did it work? Of course not. I saw a cloud of confusion looming ahead, but you know what? I packed my umbrella.

I departed from the sleepy town of Dąbrowska Górnicza with two other delegates from Duke University and reached the Międzynarodowe Centrum Kongresowe in Katowice early. The 25-minute train ride propelled us forwards by 20 years of industrial revolution, passing by two power plants and mostly unpaved roads, and into the gleaming city of Katowice. Our tram ride from the station was quick. The Katowice convention center was like a shiny beacon, beckoning throngs of people from all directions. As crowd of attendees grew larger, I could feel more butterflies coming to live in my stomach. Up to this point, I have only read and dreamed about COP. Never have I been more satisfied to have my official badge scanned at the entrance, as I (basically) combusted internally out of sheer excitement.

I made it! COP24 in Katowice, Poland

After checking in, I explored the conference layout It was nice to see the shiny new exhibition booths, the neatly lined chairs in the big, empty plenary, the empty coat racks, and the eager, fresh faces of attendees. The only events scheduled for the day were opening plenary sessions for COP, CMP, CMA, APA, SBI, and SBSTA. We managed to score tickets to attend the opening plenary for COP, CMP and CMA, courtesy of the Climate Action Network. It was surreal being able to see agenda items come to life on the floor, as opposed to reading them on paper and thinking about them conceptually.

Although I was seated in the observer section, I was able to pick up on the reality of negotiations and how bureaucratic the procedure was. Being able to observe the official procedures of plenary sessions gave me context to grapple how “negotiations” actually happen. The session provided context to the agenda items that I read off my computer screen. Agenda items require many subgroup discussions and outcome reports, and then further discussion with the larger body, before being sent off to high-level plenaries. I could see how a potentially substantive push from a Party could be watered by the many layers of deliberation and finalization by power dynamics and the urgency for ‘collective’ decision-making. With that said, I was still extremely excited to attend the plenaries to track subsidiary body agenda items, and observe the decisions go from table to paper!

4 of 5 of the MYD delegation – Shaqib, myself, Varun and Syaqil, in the plenary hall.

My first day experience taught me an important lesson to stick to what I am interested in learning, because COP24 has various events running throughout the day. The first day alone gave me an overview of the week to come, because the agenda catalog was not your simple grocery list. As I begin my first big COP week, I am frantically pouring over every relevant article I come across to offset my feelings of inadequacy. Rubbing shoulders with important and significant stakeholders did not help either. But like I said, I did bring my umbrella along.

Written by Tan Cai May
Edited by Mike Campton