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.
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…
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
Only once before have I attended the UN Climate Summit as a community delegate. It was at COP15 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Copenhagen in 2009. I met courageous people from across the world, all clearly committed to doing whatever it takes to tackle climate change for the sake of future generations, many with far fewer resources than I.