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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 31, 2013
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Climate Summit: Challenge and Opportunity
October 31, 2013   
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The 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will kick off at the National Stadium in Warsaw Nov. 11. The conference, referred to as the COP19 for short, is the most important international event hosted by Poland this year. It will be attended by politicians and other officials from nearly 200 countries, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science will be illuminated in green for the duration of the summit.

UN Conferences of the Parties are annual global summits during which participants talk about climate policy measures resulting from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

On the first day of this year’s conference, Poland’s Environment Minister Marcin Korolec will officially take over the rotating presidency of the UNFCCC process.

Poznań was first
COP19, as this year’s Conference of the Parties is called for short, will not be the first such event held in Poland. Five years ago, in December 2008, the western Polish city of Poznań hosted the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in what was so far the biggest political summit in Poland and this part of Europe as a whole. The conference was attended by more than 12,000 participants, including more than 190 government delegations including ministers for the environment and climate change, in addition to the UN secretary-general, heads of various international institutions, nongovernmental and environmental organizations, businessmen and media professionals.

COP14 proved to be an organizational success, primarily due to the excellent conditions created for the meeting of the delegates at the International Poznań Fair (MTP) grounds. Some of the innovative solutions introduced during COP14 were well received and became a permanent fixture of the next climate conferences. One example is a mobile phone application with basic information for participants, such as the list of meeting rooms, the agenda for each day, or a public transportation schedule, in addition to a mini-glossary of useful Polish terms and phrases to enable basic communication in the stores or restaurants.

Organizers, hosts and subcontractors
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change is organized by the Secretariat of the Climate Convention. Poland is the host of the summit. The Polish Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the event’s organization on behalf of the Polish government. It works in association with other institutions such as the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Warsaw City Hall. The Ministry of the Environment is tasked with providing the conference venue and the technical, telecommunications and data communications infrastructure, in addition to other services.

The logistics and technical side of the project will be handled by the Poznań International Fair (MTP) company, working together with a number of specialized subcontractors.

The COP19 venue is the National Stadium in Warsaw. Under an agreement between the Ministry of the Environment and the facility’s operator, the PL2012+ company, the lease of the National Stadium and the adjoining area began Oct. 2. In simple terms, this means that the Ministry of Environment is now in charge of what is happening at the National Stadium and it is the ministry, as the lessee named in the agreement, that is responsible for the facility. From Nov. 10 until the end of the conference on Nov. 22, the UNFCCC Secretariat and the UN security services will be responsible for what is going on at the stadium, under the agreement with the host country.

Several makeshift halls have already been assembled at the stadium in which plenary sessions and other debates will be held. In all, there will be five halls capable of accommodating more than 4,000 people.

Also involved in the preparation of the summit are employees from companies providing various services necessary for the proper functioning of the facility.

“We are working with all the partners of this complex project because, as the operator of the stadium, we feel partly responsible for the quality of all the events organized at the stadium,” says Mikołaj Piotrowski, Director of Communications and press spokesman for the PL2012+ company. “This means that, even though we are not organizing the summit and are not taking part in it, we are ensuring it functions properly. From Nov. 8 special security gates will be installed at the stadium, similar to those used at airports and in embassies. Then, in order to get to work, all employees will have to undergo daily checks and have special accreditation.”

The customer is king
COP19 is more than just a commercial project for the National Stadium. Of course, the organizer of the summit covers all the costs, but making the stadium available for lease is not particularly profitable for the PL2012+ company. A more important factor is the prestige that the stadium will gain—this cannot be expressed in monetary terms.

“Rental of additional commercial space will compensate for some of the revenue that we could earn with the normal functioning of the stadium for two months,” says Piotrowski. “Almost every extra inch of free space, including the multi-faith chapel and the changing rooms for athletes, has already been rented out, to either the organizer or individual delegations.”

Were it not for technical limitations, the stadium operator could probably earn even more, Piotrowski says, because representatives from some Arab countries had some ideas for which they were ready to pay handsomely. “These are people who have enormous sums of money at their disposal,” says Piotrowski. “They wanted to move walls, change the permanent structures of the stadium and were surprised that this cannot be done if they are ready to pay... Some other delegations, in turn, wanted to put beds into offices. But this is understandable because they have experience from previous conferences and know that sometimes the debates go on for so long that it’s simply not worth going back to the hotel for the night.”

Costs and profits
The budget for organizing COP19 is almost zl.100 million, or more than $30 million. To compare, the cost of organizing the COP in other countries was $100 million in Mexico in 2010, and the same amount in South Africa a year later.

The overall cost of holding the climate summit includes organizational and logistic costs related to renting the conference venue, providing the necessary technical and information technology infrastructure as well as other services to delegates, in addition to guaranteeing the security of the delegations in line with United Nations standards. Poland is not paying for the travel and accommodation costs of conference participants.

More than a dozen international companies have decided to support the COP19 climate summit organizationally. This chiefly involves providing environmentally-friendly products and services. For example, BMW Group Polska will provide a fleet of 60 limousines for heads of delegations. It will also cover the cost of fuel and provide chauffeurs for the fleet. General Motors will provide 10 buses with drivers to carry delegations from countries that do not have embassies in Warsaw. The International Paper Kwidzyn company will provide recycled paper for the conference, and energy giant Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) will provide raincoats for COP19 volunteers and deliver 11,000 environmentally-friendly notepad-and-pen sets as part of welcome kits for conference participants. In turn, the LeasePlan fleet management company will train drivers how to drive economically by reducing fuel consumption. ArcelorMittal has financially supported the assembly and equipping of the costly makeshift halls at the National Stadium.

During the two weeks of the summit, the National Stadium will be visited by about 10,000-12,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries, environmental organizations, businesses, international organizations and media outlets. Thanks to coverage provided by television crews from around the world, Poland and Warsaw will have an opportunity to promote themselves internationally. Poland will be able to increase its brand recognition, and the same goes for the role of Warsaw as a major European venue for not only big sporting or cultural events, but also high-profile exhibitions and conferences.
Agnieszka Dokowicz
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