Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Heading to Paris for Climate Action

I’m heading to Paris this weekend for the United Nations climate meeting commonly referred to as COP21 (21st "Conference of the Parties").   

I share the sadness of all decent people over recent events in Paris and elsewhere.  While compassion for those affected by tragedy and heightened security concerns will certainly impact the attendees, the government of France, world leaders and the United Nations feel it is vital for the gathering to take place. 

Nearly 200 nations and their leaders, including President Obama, will be attending for at least some portion of the two week meeting.  The general sense is that the resolve among world leaders is stronger than ever to unify around a common goal of addressing climate change.

COP21 will not be the final resolution of climate issues. Rather, success should be measured by nations unifying around the need to address climate change and the related commitment to hold global warming to an average of about 2 degrees centigrade or less.  

Even at a 2 degree increase, we can expect notable impacts, including sea level rise of up to three feet by the end of this century.  Nations have submitted plans to get on the 2 degree path.  However, their pathways are just the beginning steps.  If they only do what they've committed to so far, the world will do well for a few years, but ultimately temperatures will exceed the 2 degree goal.  Commitments will need to be regularly revisited, deployment of alternative energy accelerated and the phase down of fossil fuel use will have to be very rapid.

Plenty will be written about the proceedings as they begin on November 30 and reach an anticipated conclusion on December 11.  While in Paris, I plan to post a few updates and photos on this blog.  I won't try to duplicate the news stories about the conference, but I will try to pass along some of the items of interest.

Michael Paparian and United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres,  June, 2015

In addition to the national government representatives, there will be upwards of 40,000 or more representatives of scientific institutions, environmental groups, businesses, state/local governments, universities and others.  The meeting will include hundreds of workshops and other “side events” discussing everything from the latest scientific research to local government roles, financing and public engagement.  I wil go to many of these.

I’ll be attending as a representative of the InterEnvironment Institute.  I am on the Board of the Institute and have been to a number of international environmental meetings with them.  The Institute has been “accredited” by the U.N., thus allowing us access to the more central U.N. meeting areas.

Since leaving the Treasurer’s office earlier this year, one of my projects has been to help environmental finance efforts, including establishing a network to promote “green bonds” in California.  I’ll be meeting with others who share similar interests, including those who are establishing green bond groups in other countries with assistance from the Climate Bonds Initiative.  I also plan to assist the efforts of the Climate Reality Project (Al Gore’s Group) and reconnect with some old colleagues from the Sierra Club.

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