Katowice, Poland hosted the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Many described it as the most important international climate change negotiations since the 2015 Paris Agreement to negotiate the implementation strategies and rules of the country pledges to reduce their emissions. From the release of the landmark IPCC SR15 report on 1.5 °C global warming to actually attending the conference for 5 days was a roller coaster of emotions. The warning signs in the report highlighted aggressive urgency to address the issue of climate change while avoiding the catastrophe it could create.

Coming into the COP I was made aware of the science and learned everything I could about climate change negotiations during the semester, but was not sure what to expect when you are present in meetings and see it for yourself than let an email list serve or the medium of a newspaper bring it to you. You are now your own journalist to take in everything that is happening around you.

The weekend before my arrival in Poland, 4 countries namely United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait (some of the world’s largest oil-producing countries) objected to “welcoming” the document, wanting only to “note” it. This resulted in the text being dropped without a consensus. Disappointment levels have risen and it was hard to be optimistic until I got here and got a chance to walk around the conference venue. With passionate protestors greeting us with climate finance slogans and countries as well as organizations with beautiful pavilions showcasing their climate action initiatives, programs and publications brought back the adrenaline to dive right into it.

It was very interesting to be witnessing the United Stated of America hosting an event to promote coal, which was laughed upon by the international community of climate change enthusiasts. Not one of my proudest moments.

Throughout different events I learned about topics ranging from energy efficiency and building design in India and the US to Oceans and Climate Change linkages, Climate Finance, Roadmaps and a way forward for NDCs, Sustainable Development Goals, Gender action plan, Energy Access and may others. These gave me hope and spun the conference in an optimistic atmosphere.

Being able to attend the Plenary sessions and hear countries give their statements at the high-level segment brought back the gloom of the slow and tireless procedure of making progress on the negotiations. The concluding day of the Talanoa Dialogue was special to see countries engage with each other’s stories and really understand the problem through an anthropogenic and humanistic perspective. Al Gore gave a brilliant speech about the bleak conditions of our humble dwelling, our plant Earth. The statistics were depressing but gave us the opportunity to educate those who are still not woken up by the alarm ringing right through our years every time another island is at the threat of getting submerged and every time another city marks its record high temperatures.

I am leaving this conference with hope and anticipation of a reasonably ambitious text that gets adopted. I am also renewing my pledge to work tirelessly to save my future from being burnt by coal.