By Suzanne Maxx
LE BOURGET, FRANCE. Fortunately here at COP21 there is no longer the question of if climate change is happening, check out this slide show. It now is a question of how quickly we all can act to meet the challenge, and when we will have strong global policy. COP21 was supposed to end yesterday, but true to the history and form of the complexity of these agreements, it is still in process.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) holds annual meetings of the delegates Conference of the Parties (COP) and each year it grows older, left without a process to manage the world’s actions, climate change’s impact on our world increases. COP has come of age at 21 here in Paris, now it is truly like a 21 year old— legal but not yet quite responsible— perhaps an appropriate metaphor for the upcoming results of the much anticipated Paris Convention/Accord.
The bottom up approach to each country choosing what they are capable of contributing seems to be working with the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) all countries submissions are public here. COP21 had a jump start, and with the delivery of so many INDCs, COP21 was set on a fast track to global transformation, which lit the fire of possibility to “dream the impossible dream.”
On the opening day of the COP21 when the family photo of world leaders was taken, and Mission Innovation was announced, all eyes saw the possibility of transformational global policy. Clean Energy Innovation R & D will be doubled by 20 major economies with the help of the private sector. Billionaire Bill Gates at the helm of an impressive Breakthrough Energy Coalition that reads like a “who’s who” of game changers helps Mission Innovation.
With so many world leaders in Paris for the beginning of COP21 the stage of this conference was set to change the game. In 2015, there were multiple preparatory conferences all producing a draft of the policy. The regular meetings increased the chance that all could agree here in Paris, and we would have global environmental policy. Historically, the leaders would arrive at the end of the COPs after a few weeks where their representatives would try to negotiate a deal. This year’s COP was different, not just because all world leaders agreed to come at the beginning of the COP, having worked out what they are able to contribute on their own, but were standing for the success of finally attaining climate policy. To have these world leaders in the same place after the vulnerable attacks here in Paris demonstrates a commitment to the statement: “There is no darkness that can overcome the light.”
The people, NGOs, and corporations also set up a powerful approaches to action, including a massive march planned for the Global Climate Movement. However, many Paris events were canceled, including the climate marches after the terrorist attacks, and subsequent state of emergency. Fortunately, the Global Climate Movement adapted with action around the world. We used our bodies as a font in the Eiffel Tower aerial art piece, that 300 of us or so took part in, led by artist John Quigley and Dancing without Boarders, This event miraculously prevailed and has become the iconic image of COP21, gracing the cover of many publications. Other powerful events in Paris for this COP21 time frame were pulled off successfully augmenting the action over at Le Bourget’s COP21 conferences like “Earth to Paris,” and the “Energy for Tomorrow Conference’’ hosted by the International New York Times. The Green Zone public “Climate Generation Area” allowed all people to be involved in the action, and there were some solid panels like “Energy Matters,” sponsored by the International Energy Agency.
Global Emissions Target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is what’s needed by at least 2020— it was needed yesterday — so ideally with a pre-2020 five year review and calibration. The target date may end up being 2050; this is one of the points of conflict in the negotiation. Will this be a realistic target that sets us on a trajectory that honors what we know to be true about climate change, and how it affects not only human health, but also the balance of all species on earth? The other sensitive point is: when will the energy transition occur? We would like to see 100% renewable energy by at least 2050. A firm date of when to phase out of fossil fuel is at the root of this controversial debate. The majority of countries now agree that 100% cut of fossil fuel will happen, but by when— is the question.
The forests and oceans breathe for our planet— they are more than our lungs. Together they are teeming with the bio-diversity— the flora, fauna, and all necessary for our human species. survival. We are waiting for the text of the final document to have language about the commitment to zero de-forestation globally. Our oceans need protection from acidification, and warming temperatures—this is imperative to take into account, and have specific measurable results in mind, along with global emission targets. We need to have goals for our oceans, islands, and responsibly embrace policy that is accountable for not only our air, but also the land, waters, and people. Global policy that allows all people to belong to the earth is needed, especially when whole nations, island states like Tuvalu are being annihilated by our collective use of resources. Justice is needed to balance the poor Small Islands and Least Developed Countries who are most affected by the results of climate change, with richer nations sourcing the problem.
Fossil Fuel subsidies are going to be phased out globally— much to both the dismay and celebration of many people and industries. Why subsidize the most profitable global industry anyway? Old paradigms can be hard for some to let go, yet our future depends on embracing this renewable energy transition, and also how fast we can move on a large scale. More than a trillion dollars a year— just think of how quickly we could change the energy game with those same subsidies going to renewable energy or into the Green Climate Fund. The 100 billion annual contribution to the Green Climate Fund would become a reality.
Naturally, it will be better to have an ambitious framework with a big enough vision for growth and change. There needs to be checks and balances in place — most likely discussed in more detail next year at Morocco COP22. An independent agency will need to be formed organically to both check and enforce agreed upon targets, much like the International Atomic Energy Agency reports to the Security Council.
The long term key will be the enforceable, critical language added, and systems put in place to realize the outcome of the global goals. It will take time to work out the logistics of how we live into these objectives collectively. That is why this is a convention with the goals to have a framework to build out over time, so it reflects the truth of what we are collectively committed to achieving. Transparent, enforceable global policy with mechanisms, systems, and a structure that we all— all nations and all people— can live into after COP21. This will take more time than allotted at COP21— that is why this is a process. This process can direct global markets, as well as steer the re-prioritization of our collective values— this is where change can take root. Here is a copy of the yesterday’s draft doc, and some of the key sticking points . It may take years to realize the “how,” but at this point, what is important is that we agree to common global goals and objectives that will set us in a direction to live into our future.