Quantcast
Climate

Carl Pope: Paris Climate Talks Could Bring as Much Progress as Previous 20 COP's Combined

Neither Paris nor Lyon are burning—yet. But sweltering, roasting under 400 centigrade (1060 F) skies, they definitely are—and the delegates gathering in Lyon to channel the climate action potential of cities, states and provinces feel the heat. In addition to the weather, the World Summit on Climate and Territories suffers from the usual conference burden of deadening boiler plate and an occasional diplomatic aversion to hard truths—such as an entire document on transportation and climate which managed to avoid a single use of the words “oil” or “petroleum.”

Nonetheless, listening to these proceedings and tracking the outside context, it seems likely to me that COP21 may entrain as much climate progress as the previous 20 COP’s put together—which is the kind of breakthrough the world needs. 

The reason is simple. This time climate action has momentum. Christiana Figueres, who will chair the 21st UN Climate Summit in Paris this December, fires up her constituency—and she’s worth quoting:

“Why are cities and states doing so much—not just to save the planet! From the local point of view there are huge benefits—better and more efficient transportation, better waste management, more energy efficient, cleaner air—a new economy creating more jobs and more industry and more growth.

“So individually, that’s why you are going at it. But what are you doing collectively—you are creating a new reality for the world. You are making possible what heretofore was only in the literature—a low carbon, high growth society. And collectively you are getting the global economy ready for the 21st century. Perhaps since it is 2015 you are late. But better late than later.

“Yes there will be many different lanes, to reflect local differences—but it is one highway, and there are, if we do our work well, no off-ramps before we get to a low carbon society.

“This year’s national commitments are the first stop, the baseline—from there we move up. The transition is irreversible, it is unstoppable, and Paris is merely the first stop.”

These delegates are here to make sure their voices—and their contributions—are heard and counted by the national governments which will convene in Paris in December. What is different about the mood this summer, compared to the months before Copenhagen six years ago, is that that summer failure loomed, and people felt trapped. This time the world—a broad diversity of actors—wants in on the action—that’s the gift momentum creates.

Listen to Sharon Burrows, the head of the International Trade Union Federation. Her theme: “Coal is gone in 10-15 years. Oil and gas have maybe another 20-30. But no government is planning for it. We’re not getting ready nearly fast enough."

Read page 1

She calls for a just transition, and points out that labor has investments as well as jobs at stake. Unions have $30-50 trillion invested in pension funds, etc. “We asked five years ago for 5 percent of our savings to be put into the clean energy transition—but less than 3 percent has moved. It’s largely because pension investors and managers are not governed by the long term. We need an investment and planning cycle that reflects the new realities.”

Jay Weatherill, the head of the State of South Australia, beards his climate skeptical Prime Minister:

“Our government has waffled, but state governments have been consistent.  In my state we have 40 percent renewable power, we have gone from no wind to heavy wind reliance, and ¼ of our households boast solar panels. We have cut emissions by 9 percent while growing our economy by 60 percent."

Weatherill is part of a new grouping of states and provinces, now taking its place along the established climate advocacy of cities. Announced in Barcelona, the Compact of States and Regions now represent 5 percent of global emissions—and include many of the world’s economic powerhouses: California, Oregon, Washington and New York, Lombardy in Italy, Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain, Rio and Sao Paulo in Brazil, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Climate action, indeed, as Figueres argued, is already creating economic progress.

China this week stepped forward with a formal submission of its commitment to cap its emissions and drastically reduce the carbon dependence of its economy—and the subtext is that its ambitions will continue to grow. Brazil signals that it’s going to go beyond its historic emphasis on deforestation as its only climate engagement, and will shift the rest of its economy away from carbon dependence. His Holiness Pope Francis boldly invites a secular Canadian feminist socialist, Naomi Klein, to co-chair his first public conference on climate change.

And not everything in Lyon is diplomatic nicety. French President Francois Hollande attends. While he is sitting in the audience, the Mayor of Lyon challenges him directly to remove the freeway which currently funnels traffic into the downtown part of his city—which claims credit for having invented the bike sharing system sweeping the world’s major cities.

Hollande’s sprawling speech is at its toughest at one telling point. Addressing the need for climate finance, he says directly, Funding is the actual nitty gritty—the heart of the matter. It must be $100 billion a year, no less. It must flow each year, and some must flow through to local authorities and stakeholders.”

This is a hard idea for an international system based on nation states only to grasp—but it’s critical. Because at the end of the summit, when a variety of commitments and initiatives have had their moment, the organizers add up the potential impact of action by the cities and states which have already organized themselves for climate action. Adding together all of the voluntary substate commitments to date amounts to 1.5 billion tons of CO2 by 2020. This is 1/6 of the 9 gigatons needed by that year. But the cities and regions organized already represent only 11 percent of the population—which suggests that if all of the world’s substate actors joined at the same level of ambition, humanity could achieve the two degree pathway from those actions alone!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Death Toll Climbs as Weather Experts Link Pakistan Heatwave to Climate Change

8 Major Cities Running Out of Water

June 2015 Smashes Heat and Rainfall Records in U.S.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Sam Murphy

Got Nondairy Alternative Milk?

By Sam Schipani

More and more, ecologically minded milk consumers are turning to nondairy products to minimize their carbon hoofprints. Sales of almond milk shot up by 250 percent between 2011 and 2016. Meanwhile, consumption of dairy milk has plummeted 37 percent since the 1970s, according to the USDA.

Keep reading... Show less
A burger made with a blend of beef and mushrooms. Mushroom Council

'Blended Burger' Allows a Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Old White Truck / Flickr

The Last Straw? EU Official Hints Ban on Single-Use Plastic Across Europe

A top EU official hinted that legislation to cut plastic waste in Europe is coming soon.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, made the comment after Britain's environment minister Michael Gove, a pro-Brexiter, suggested that staying in the EU would make it harder for the UK to create environmental laws such as banning plastic drinking straws.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Flare from gas well. Ken Doerr / Flickr

Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal judge reinstated a widely supported methane waste rule that President Trump's administration has repeatedly tried to stop.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
On Jan. 24, 2017 President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to expedite the Keystone XL permitting process. Twitter | Donald Trump

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

By Steve Horn

At a Feb. 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

Keep reading... Show less
Health

New Black Lung Epidemic Emerging in Coal Country

In a study released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), federal researchers identified more than 400 cases of complicated black lung in three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017—the largest cluster ever reported.

However, the actual number of cases is likely much, much higher as the government analysis relied on self-reporting. An ongoing investigation from NPR has counted nearly 2,000 cases diagnosed since 2010 across Appalachia.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped?

By John Rogers

The solar-related shoe we've been expecting has finally dropped: President Trump recently announced new taxes on imported solar cells and modules. There's plenty of downside to his decision, in terms of solar progress, momentum and jobs. But will it revive U.S. manufacturing?

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Japan Confirms Oil From the Sanchi Is Washing Up On Its Beaches

By Andy Rowell

The Japanese Coast Guard has confirmed that the oil that is being washed up on islands in the south of the country is "highly likely" to have come from the stricken Iranian tanker, the Sanchi.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!