Day 1 in Paris

Today, the 30th of November, the 21st annual Conference of Parties (COP21) kicked off with nearly all of the world’s leaders convening in Paris, France. To begin the meeting, each leader was given approximately 3 minutes (which President Obama used up in his first pause) to give a speech on the grave danger that climate inaction will bring.

Some of the most powerful quotes were Hungary’s János Áder who talked of a reoccurring dream with his unborn Grandson about growing up in a world of climate inaction. Ethiopia talked about how they have no incentive to lobby for carbon pricing, but see it as a collective action that all countries must take and many leaders mentioned the figurative and literal eyes that are watching from around the world.

While there has been 20 previous COPs, this meeting is significant in the respect that it’s set to be the first meeting to call for a legally binding, universal agreement to prevent the global temperature from exceeding 2 °C— a universally agreed upon limit that seeks to prevent catastrophic disasters around the world that would lead to droughts, floods, and conflict.

The 2 °C limit was first agreed upon during a European Union Environmental Council meeting, which was the first time that nations began to acknowledge climate change science within in their national and international policy agendas.

With the acceptance of the 2 °C limit, many countries across the globe have been taking significant steps to try and address climate change like the Emissions Trading Scheme/System, renewable energy, and even goingcarbon neutral. A big problem however is a lack of current universal consensus, collaboration and most importantly—a legally binding treaty.

If someone knows anything about the UN, it’s probably that they don’t have very much authority when it comes to making nations commit to something they don’t want to do. Even if they sign the document with the best of intentions, everything could come unraveled if the treaty doesn’t become ratified. This was exemplified with the Kyoto Protocols, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and many more that the US’ Democratic process has stopped in it’s tracks.

So is there hope for this year’s COP21?

I think so. I think there is a lot of hope and there are a lot of powers at play.

My day consisted of watching the plenaries, writing quotes, and meeting my team that I would be working with for the next two weeks.

The top two things that happened today was Justin Trudeau saying “Canada is back” and the launch of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition joined by Germany, Canada, BC Group (a large oil company based out of the UK),  and many other countries with the intent to create a strong and effective system of carbon pricing. If you haven’t been following the news up until the past few days, this is extremely significant for the fact that the discussion up until the meeting indicated there was no chance of carbon pricing.

Today we talked about saving the world, now we have 11 to actually do it.