11/19/2013 06:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Snow White's Apples

Polish apples have become the unlikely talking point in climate change talks last week. As Yeb Sano of the Philippines made a passionate plea to his fellow delegates to urgently act on climate change, other delegates were surprised to find branded apples in their COP19 welcome bags. Promotions coordinator Anna Lipińska spoke with The Verb about this delicious addition.

She told us that, "the idea came to me because we wanted to give a gift that was natural, seasonal and native to Poland."

Red Jonaprince apples are native to the Mazovian orchards near Warsaw. Delegates could be seen meandering throughout the conference, curiously studying the engravings and wondering whether this was all a bit too Snow White.

Katarzyna Maksymowicz, also from the COP19 logistics team, explained how the apples were carved: "There is a company that uses a special machine to carve the apples. I believe that lasers are used to take a very thin layer of skin off of the apples to create the effect!"

The whole process takes four days, from farm to COP. Maksymowicz explained that the apples are picked, washed, cut and then washed again before being brought to Warsaw.

The apples are stored in the logistics office and will be delivered in stages over the next two weeks. Around 10,000 apples will be distributed to the delegates of the conference. Work also went into making sure the apples had low 'food miles'.

Jabłka z napisami, the producer and grower, is only 56 kilometers from the conference center. What might be seen as a gimmick is actually an example of how Poland is addressing climate change. Food production and proximity to food sources is something that needs to be considered as populations continue to increase, particularly in urban non-agriculture centers.

But much like Snow White's seven little helpers, a shroud of coal dust has descended upon the Polish capital. Delegates see the apples as a cynical move to green-wash the event while dirty deals with coal producers are done behind closed doors. Antoine Ebel of CliMates expressed his concerns with the COP being coal-washed:

"I do think corporate influence is very prevalent at climate negotiations and we have never really got used to or accepted it. However it has never been as obvious as this year. You sit on Emirates airline bags, bags with coal company logos and yet we have issues such as not as many young people not getting accreditation. It is clear that Poland has a preference for who they think should be the main stakeholders. Young people or the people who keep branding clean coal as a potential solution? The choice is clear."

Poland's economy is driven in large part by coal, making it one of the biggest users of the fossil fuel in the European Union. The rugged history of climate change negotiations has injected some realism into delegates, who are busy working towards a legally binding agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015. For now, they are hoping the sweet taste of Polish apples doesn't morph into bitter failure of the conference.

By Andrew Johnson, photo by Linh Do.