Note: QEW General Secretary Shelley Tanenbaum traveled to Paris to participate in the historic COP21 Climate talks. This blog compiles her posts (organized with the most recent post at the top of the blog).
[Post 4 of 4 for the day, listed from latest to earliest posts]
12DECEMBRE 2015 – This is an in-the-moment account of Saturday night’s global agreement on climate.
Dignitaries assembling – Main hall is packed, plus overflow an equally large hall is packed, plus several side rooms. On the screen (I’m in the large overflow room), close-ups of happy looking folks – a good sign? Kerry, Gore, McKenna, Fabius, delegates taking photos, laughing Chinese, Kerry talking to Chinese delegates, Gore taking a selfie, Mary Robinson chatting with Gore and Kerry, laughing with them. But are the Saudis and Indians looking equally ready to make history?
People in my hall laugh to see dignitaries taking cell photos of each other. Uh-oh, looks like a delegation still going over the text and another delegation looks somber – are these bad signs? This is like reading tea leaves.
More delay – almost an hour after we were supposed to get started. Not much sign of action at the front table. No more happy people arriving, just lots of tense waiting. Nervous chatter and wifi that keeps cutting out from rooms packed with delegates and observers.
Sara and Eileen text me that they are holding Meeting for Worship at Place To Be in Paris on behalf of all of us at the COP, well really, all of us everywhere. Lindsey and I, in separate halls, texting back and forth.
Finally, after nearly 2 hours of waiting, we are starting the proceedings. We hear from the UN Secretariat’s executive secretary general with a long list of typos and technical correction – after all, this recent text was prepared by diplomats and staff working on several all-nighters over the past week.
President of the COP, Laurent Fabius, lets us know that he will take comments later. He asks for objections and immediately gavels approval! Huh, did that just happen? Cheers erupt, hugs, clapping, tears.
First to comment is the delegation from South Africa. They proudly refer to this current round of negotiations starting in Durbin, comment a bit on pre- and post- 2020 goals and targets, and conclude with Nelson Mandela : “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have not faltered. I have discovered that after climbing that great hill, there are many hills to climb. I have stopped to take a rest, but I dare not linger for my long walk is not over.”
Nearly all comments from delegations praise French diplomatic skill in reaching out to all parties and addressing all concerns to the extent possible with an agreement including 186 countries – almost tout le monde. Nearly all mention the remarkable collegial atmosphere of the past 2 weeks, with delegates working tirelessly (multiple all-nighters), listening deeply, responding sincerely.
The most poignant comment is from the delegate from Santa Lucia, speaking on behalf of island nations. He emotionally relates that this is the first COP where their concerns have been heard and addressed.
Nicaragua is up next, objecting to several elements in the agreement, including the hasty approval. They say financing is not adequate to make serious inroads into deep de-carbonization in developing countries – everyone in fact knows this but they also know it is the best that can be done this year at COP. Nicaragua also objects to stripping future generations of legal claims on compensation from historic use. But their objections are referred to a “report” in the euphoria of creating an “historic” international agreement.
The Paris Agreement includes a 5-year review and a ratcheting process to systematically lower emissions while holding up the goal of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. It is understood that current commitments are inadequate and will likely result in a temperature rise of 3 degrees C, so stronger commitments will have to be made during the 5-year reviews. It would have been better, of course, to set more ambitious emissions goals now.
Some of the comments from delegations:
- EU—France has united the world. Today we celebrate, tomorrow we have to act…This is what the world expects of us.
- China—The Paris agreement is a critical step…It is a marvelous agreement that belongs to our generation (Fabius thanks China for their extraordinary effort)
- India—quoting Gandhi, “We should care for a world we will not see”
- Venezuela—The preamble is revolutionary – we are in support of gender equity, generational equity, climate justice, rights of Mother Earth, human rights…Paris is a city of Light and Hope
- Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN—This agreement is the floor, not the ceiling…What was once unthinkable has now become unstoppable
- Ecuador—We do not negotiate with life..Living Well (Buen Vivir) is our national strategy…Paris is a good start… Life isn’t business and it doesn’t come with a price.
- President Hollande, France—You have done it…later starts a standing ovation to Al Gore
- Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC—She is the only person to thank civil society, and specifically praises the 400,000 strong Peoples Climate March in NYC last September for demonstrating public will to act on climate change.
As I see it, the Paris Agreement is certainly not the answer to our problems, nor is it the start. We are already well into a transition to carbon-free resources. Renewable energy and alternatives to current agricultural practices and other industrial processes are available and increasingly implemented every day. However, the agreement showcases an international goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C and it provides a framework for establishing lower and lower emissions on a 5-year review cycle. This work needs to be done at multiple levels of our society – civil society, government and business. It was exhilarating to be a witness to this part of the process, to see total joy from delegates and observers, to give a needed boost to our transition to Buen Vivir.
There was nearly no mention of spiritual and lifestyle changes that will be a key ingredient to living sustainably, not just in regard to climate but also with regard to our relationship with the natural world. We can all celebrate today, then get to work tomorrow. Merci Beaucoup.