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Global Climate Conference Reinforces Need for Grassroots Movement

Countries gathered in Poland for the UN's 24th annual meeting on climate change. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)
Countries gathered in Poland for the UN's 24th annual meeting on climate change. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)
December 14, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS – The 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland draws to a close today.

Shefali Sharma, European office director with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy was at the conference. She says the meeting isn't likely to yield stronger commitments from countries to reduce carbon emissions.

That's despite the most recent UN report saying the world needs to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 in order to avert climate-related catastrophes.

The United States was among a handful of countries that refused to endorse the report. But Sharma says the conference gave her hope about grassroots movements.

"The action are going to really have to come from the bottom up,” says Sharma. “They're going to have to come from municipalities, from cities, from states, from citizens really demanding that our governments do something. I don't see that it's going to come from this negotiating process."

Although the Trump administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, a handful of governors, mayors and officials from the U.S. were in Poland talking about the importance of combating climate change.

Climate Mayors, a group that includes 11 mayors in Minnesota, has committed the cities it represents to meeting the Paris agreement goals.

However, the grassroots movements and organizations at the forefront of fighting climate change didn't have much room at COP 24.

Laurel Levin, an IATP intern and climate activist with the group Fossil Free, was also at the conference. She says while some actions took place – such as a protest at a U.S.-hosted meeting promoting fossil fuels – activism was mostly missing from the conference.

"Poland was really cracking down on any kinds of resistance,” says Levin. “Like it wasn't even safe to wear a matching shirt as someone when you were walking around. And there is a whole blacklist of people who weren't allowed into the country, who are activists."

Sharma says talk of agriculture's role in climate change also was largely absent. She says officials at a workshop on agriculture delayed further discussion of the topic.

"We realized that the final decision is basically, 'Let's talk about this some more in the next meeting,' ” says Sharma. “And the next meeting that they highlighted in the text is in June 2019. So, they've basically punted kind of the tough decisions and the tough conversations."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MN