Monday, June 22, 2015

Bill Reilly and Christiana Figueres Paris Optimism

A few days ago, I attended a Climate One event in San Francisco featuring former George H.W. Bush EPA Secretary Bill Reilly and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  Christiana Figueres.

I came away with renewed hope that there will be success at the upcoming Paris Climate Summit.

Both Reilly and Figueres expressed optimism, but cautioned that the Paris agreement may not be as strong as many would like.  Reilly suggested the "bar" has been set low enough that success in Paris will be inevitable.  Figueres said the Paris agreement will be more about "what" we need to do moving forward than "how" we will get there. Terms like "baseline" and "first step" were used. 

Figueres said that 39 countries have so far submitted plans for how they will achieve emission reductions and she expects twice that many to be completed by the time the Paris Summit opens in December.  She said that every country is engaged in the process.  She also said that in a meeting in Bonn earlier this month, there is a new push to limit global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than the 2 degrees that is the more common goal being pushed by climate leaders.  

Figueres noted much more climate change awareness outside of the U.S.  Reilly estimated there are about 100 Republican members of Congress in the "Climate Closet."  According to Reilly, they are fully aware of the climate issue and the need for action, but have had to remain publicly aligned with climate deniers for political reasons.  He said he is being told by those in the Climate Closet that they are not hearing from constituents about climate change  The implication is that increased community and direct engagement with these officials could bring them out of the closet.

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