Climate Voices

November 13, 2017
By: Melissa Hortman, Window Into COP23 Delegate

A day of planes, trains, and buses

COP23 Day 1: Arriving in Germany and getting oriented – with jet lag!

A day of planes, trains, and buses

I arrived at the Dusseldorf Airport in Germany today at 11 a.m. local time – 4 a.m. Minnesota (MN) time – after ten hours of air travel. Dusseldorf is in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), a German state. German states are similar to U.S. states – while their federal government is headquartered in Berlin and sets national policies, German states engage in state-level policymaking and have state-level executive branch agencies just like MN. The three cities I will visit while in Germany are all in NRW – Dusseldorf is the airport I flew into, Cologne is where I am staying, and Bonn is where the climate talks are. MN and NRW have had a special partnership over many years. Sabine Engel, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, has worked with German counterparts to bring MN policymakers to Germany and German policymakers to MN so that we can learn from each other. NRW has always played a critical role in these important policy exchanges. In addition, Governor Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith, and MN executive branch agencies have worked collaboratively with NRW officials over the years.

So, right when I got off the plane, I met with one of MN’s dearest friends in NRW, Dr. Uwe Wolf, who helps lead the MN-NRW policy exchanges and other joint policy work. We talked about MN’s Dusseldorf trade office, in which MN and German industrial sectors are working together. We also talked about NRW and MN’s forestry industries – another area we have in common: both regions have rich forest resources. We also discussed the special importance of biomass energy generation in agricultural communities.

Dr. Wolf helped me purchase my train ticket from Dusseldorf to Cologne, and I headed off with my too-full suitcase. After about 45 minutes on the train, just after 2 p.m., I arrived in Cologne and saw partygoers everywhere. Even though Mardi Gras seems like a long time from now, in Cologne, Carnival celebrations started today, on 11-11 at 11 a.m. It was fun to see the streets of Cologne filled with people in costume, singing, and reveling in celebration as I walked the five blocks from the train station to my hotel.

After I checked into the hotel and unpacked, I headed to Bonn via train to check out the sites where the climate talks and side events will occur. Even though it was tempting to go to sleep right away after the overnight flight, I knew it would be worth it to force myself to stay awake as long as possible, and to get the lay of the land right away. It was an adventure to figure out which train I needed to take to make the 30-minute trip from Cologne to Bonn and how to buy a ticket by myself this time.

Thirty minutes later I was in Bonn, finding the right bus to get to the conference site. (I don’t know any German, but luckily for me, almost everyone here speaks English). I checked in and got my credentials. While 10,000 government officials and 10,000 observers attend the climate talks, the site is very secure. In order to attend any meetings, you need credentials from the UN. Since there are 20,000 attendees, it’s best to find an odd time to check in and get those credentials, and Saturday evening turned out to be a great choice.

The one climate event I attended today was an evening reception with members of the environmental press corps and members of the “We Are Still In” coalition. U.S. Senator Ed Markey and Oregon’s Governor addressed the crowd and talked about how important state, local, and private sector action is. With a lack of federal leadership, state leaders and others need to fill the void. That’s why states like MN are standing up and working together to keep moving America forward. Further, we want the rest of the world to know that the President doesn’t speak for all of us – millions of Americans and their elected leaders are still committed to meeting the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and enacting the policy to get us there.

Now that I’ve dragged my tired self from Bonn back to Cologne, it’s time to finally get some sleep!