Climate Conference Blog 2: From Poland’s coal history to oil producers blocking a better future

Today was a day-off in the climate conference, before the politicians join in the negotiations tomorrow.

We started the day seeing the message ‘combating climate change – Taiwan can help’ plastered on the side of a tram.

a tram took us to the Silesian Museum, on the site of a former coal mine shaft next to the main conference venue. In the entrance we were encouraged to ‘talk about garbage’ – a reminder of how relatively recently our ‘single use’ society has taken hold – with the first beer can made in 1935 and the first disposable nappies piled off the production line in 1961. This then showed how plastic bottles filled with water are being turned into lights in ‎shanty towns in the Philippines, and now around the world.

But the museum’s most impressive bit tells the story of how the history of Silesia (this area of Poland) is intertwined with the history of coal. ‎One aristocrat turned industrialist earned 25 million over a century ago (deutsch) marks – almost a million times his workers’ annual salary – and by 1910 was mining 36 million tonnes ‎of coal a year. ‎The exhibit ended by asking whether, after two centuries of industrialism we are entering a new era?

After eating Pierogi (Polish filled dumplings) we happened upon a climate service at Katowice’s cathedral, the largest in Poland. The Archbishop of Katowice ended his sermon with the words, “Let the face of the earth, the mother of us all, begin to change today in us and through us.”

But I don’t think the US and Russia, Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegates were listening. Late last (Saturday) night they agreed to block a deepening of the climate commitment to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels (the ambitious target which was presented at Paris climate conference 3 years ago). This follows the publishing a report, agreed with global censensus that this is what is required to limit dangerous climate change, and requires a radical shift in levels of action starting right now. That needs all countries to put aside their self-interests on what can make them ‘great again’ and instead do enough for the sake of all of us, together.