On wings of hope: Interfaith global call to action on climate change

I’m aboard QF11 from Australia to JFK Airport New York via Los Angeles.

For the past few weeks I have worked with a tireless and committed group of people to gather high level faith signatures for an Interfaith Climate Change Statement.

Thankfully, amazingly, over 250 senior faith leaders across the world have added their names to this combined call for urgent action on climate change. I’m flying to New York for 50 hours on the ground to witness the formal handover of this joint statement to the current President of the United Nations General Assembly.

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The COP-out we cannot afford

One week on from COP21, Mark Pershin and Kari McGregor weigh in on the false promises of a flaccid agreement that leaves behind the innocent and most vulnerable.

Paris was a world-first: all of the major emitters huddled around the negotiating table, ready to write the script for a new era of climate action. No absences. No excuses.

It took 21 years of bureaucratic wrangling to transcend tactical boycotts and get everyone to the starting blocks. If nothing else, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) twenty-first conference of parties (COP21) can take credit for a full house.

Talks have often been fraught with tension: negotiations at COP6 at The Hague in 2000 broke down and talks were rescheduled for 2001 in Bonn; COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 collapsed in disarray without agreement.

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Looking forward from COP21 Paris to COP22 Marrakech

What was unthinkable is now unstoppable – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

His quote resonated among the many speeches that followed French President Francois Hollande’s announcement that we now have a new global understanding on climate – the legally binding Paris Agreement.

Following Copenhagen 2006, it was unthinkable 196 nations would voluntarily sign up to the world’s first global agreement to work together on climate change in good faith, with 189 lodging Intended Nationally Determined Contributions INDCs before Paris.

Yet it’s important to state plainly that the net contribution of all INDCs now in hand still commit the world to 2.7-3 of warming, so we are not out of the woods yet, but at least we are starting to take it all seriously…

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COP21 – Eavesdropping on an old family argument

I stayed up until 3am this morning, listening to every speech made on the new draft text delivered by the French Presidency and prepared during the first gruelling 10 days of discussions.

I wanted to hear, firsthand, the voices of all those sent to represent us, the people of the world.  A few voices stood out for me:

  • Australian Ambassador for the Environment, Peter Woolcott, disappointed but resilient on behalf of the Umbrella Group
  • Egypt speaking for Africa, the reality of the urgency facing the continent
  • Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) approving acknowledgement of 1.5°C target but calling for action on mitigation and adaptation to reach it.
  • Angola speaking for the LDCs, registering a proposal for unblocking political issues of finance and mitigation
  • Ramos Horta for East Timor, suggesting that Hollande will deserve a Nobel Peace Prize if he delivers a strong binding global agreement …

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COP21 – Raising ambition to bring the world back from the brink

AYCC/SEED coordinated an excellent action to support the global #1o5C degree campaign, with young people asking their countries to sign a declaration stating:

We will do what it takes to ensure the survival of all countries and peoples.

Australians Paul Gorrie, Maddie Sarre, Rachel Lynskey, Moira Cully and Jaden Harris led a well-targetted call out on countries acting as blockers to the 1.5oC target.

Greg Hunt signed the pledge for Australia, along with others such as a Senior US Advisor and representatives from China, the Maldives and the Philippines.

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Naomi Klein’s ‘Leap Manifesto’: we can’t rely on big business for a climate fix

Discussions at the Paris climate talks take place within incredibly narrow parameters. In fact, it would not be too great an exaggeration to say that the summit’s main purpose is to send the private sector a message about which way it should steer its future investments.

The financial press tends to be the most explicit on this point. The Financial Times, for instance, described the purpose of the Paris summit like this:

Investors will need to be persuaded that governments are going to make it easier for them to make money from a new electric bus system or a wind farm rather than a highway or a coal power plant.

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COP21 – Elephants in the Room and Chocolate

Today began with Elephants in the Room and Chocolate!

I joined Belgian friends to support an EU action outside Le Bourget to highlight the importance of including international aviation and shipping in negotiations, respectively responsible for 5% and 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Security restrictions meant that no pink elephants appeared on the scene, but leaflets were discretely distributed.

The Change Chocolate came from Plant a Tree for the Planet specially wrapped for COP21 with a message calling on us all to plant trees and support the planet. Combined with an apple picked 60km away, it made for an interesting breakfast .

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COP21 – find what we can each contribute

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed (bouleversé, knocked over) by the intensity, complexity, sheer scale and fascination of a Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)…

Thousands of people milling about with one common purpose in minds: how to bring our world back from the brink of catastrophic run-away climate change and create the chance for a safer future for future generations of all species.

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COP21 – updates from parliamentarians and interfaith groups in Paris

Leaving at a more civilized hour from the youth hostel led to a slightly less civilized trip in the shuttle bus from the RER station. Queuing to get past security gave me an idea of the sheer numbers that the organisers are dealing with at the COP21 site at Le Bourget.

Hard to imagine so many meetings, conversations, information and people can fit into a single day. I guess stalwarts who’ve attended numerous COPs take it in their stride.

Today began with a short briefing for our Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) team, before we walked in to meet Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten in one of the formal meetings room available for delegations and side meetings.

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COP21 climate change conference unfolds in Paris

An early start, walking with the AYCC/SEED crew to Gare du Nord under streetlights and a sinking moon, since we’d heard it might be difficult to get in today with all the leaders in town.

On the shuttle bus (navette), I met Yhro from Niger. We discussed deforestation, desertification and the unsustainable use of groundwater (nappe phreatique).

My entry into Le Bourget COP21 venue was slow while security officers took an inordinate interest in the Catholic Earthcare and Multifaith SA banners, but I was allowed through once they’d been closely scrutinized and deemed harmless.

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