Politics

Climate change: 21 Voices on COP21, the Crucial Climate Meeting in Paris

The French capital will host close to 50,000 visitors from Monday for the milestone fortnight-long climate summit. In the lead-up to the event, many people have had a lot to say. Below is a selection of the best and most eye-raising verbal (and illustrative) emissions.

1.

Christiana Figueres: Paris Will Mark, Rather than Create, a Turning Point

“There’s no environmental police running around with a pistol pointed at anybody’s head. That is definitely not the case. But I think the interesting thing to understand here is, these climate change plans [INDCs] that have already been put forward – we already have 157 of them – they stem from a very deep analysis and cross-sectoral consultation inside each of the countries that have presented them, yes, certainly to obey the global climate change agenda and move that forward, but primarily because it is in their national interest.

“Because they can see that this actually gives them much better air quality. It gives them better transportation. It gives them better food security, water security because they understand that we can no longer continue down the path of increasing the risk of non-action. And that is the very interesting turning point where Paris will actually not create that turning point. It will mark it.”

Christiana Figueres is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Via NPR

An artist

Tender snapshot of negotiators and assorted stakeholders going about their climate change negotiation business

2.

Barack Obama: A Powerful Rebuke to Terrorists

“Next week, I will be joining President Hollande and world leaders in Paris for the global climate conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be, when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children … Let’s remember we face greater threats to our way of life …

“For us to be able to get the basic architecture in place with aggressive-enough targets from the major emitters that the smaller countries say, ‘This is serious’ — that will be a success. I’m less concerned about the precise number, because let’s stipulate right now, whatever various country targets are, it’s still going to fall short of what the science requires. So a percent here or a percent there coming from various countries is not going to be a deal-breaker …

“The key for Paris is just to make sure that everybody is locked in, saying, ‘We’re going to do this.’ Once we get to that point, then we can turn the dials. But there will be a momentum that is built, and I’m confident that we will then be in a position to listen more carefully to the science — partly because people, I think, will be not as fearful of the consequences or as cynical about what can be achieved. Hope builds on itself. Success breeds success.”

Barack Obama is President of the US. Via Whitehouse.gov and Rolling Stone

3.

Xi Jinping: Developed Countries Must Do More

“Climate change is a global challenge at which no country can stand on their own. Developed and developing countries have different historical responsibilities for climate change, and different development needs and capabilities. Just like in a car race: it would be neither reasonable nor fair to apply the same speed requirements to cars which have run far ahead and those which have only just left the starting point. Developed countries should do more and lead the way in addressing climate change …

“Having said that, the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ does not exempt developing countries from contributing their share to global response to climate change. It is only that such contribution should be in line with their capabilities and needs. China is now the world’s biggest country in energy conservation and utilisation of new and renewable energy. In 2014, China’s per unit GDP energy consumption and CO2 emission were cut by 29.9% and 33.8% respectively from the 2005 level. China’s submission to the UN of its nationally intended contributions is aimed at facilitating global climate governance, and also for the sake of China’s own development …

“Progress in negotiations requires flexibility of all parties, yet the basic principles of the UNFCCC need to be observed. Parties should demonstrate sincerity as much as they can, build up consensus and work toward the same goal. China is ready to play a constructive role and work for the timely conclusion of a comprehensive, balanced and strong agreement at the Paris conference.”

Xi Jinping is the President of China. Via Reuters

4.

Giza Gaspar-Martins: Two Degrees Is Too High for Poorest Countries

“The current plans will only slow emissions by a third, which is clearly not enough to keep us within safe limits. Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.

“The current plans to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do not keep us even within a temperature rise of 2°C. However from the Least Developed Countries’ perspective, it is far worse than that. For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2°C ‘safe zone’. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5°C target.”

Giza Gaspar-Martins is chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, “48 nations that are especially vulnerable to climate change but have done the least to cause the problem”. Via LDC site

5.

Nicolas Hulot: A Shipwrecked Family in an Infinite Universe

“We have to be very ambitious about the commitments to be made in Paris. When I was in Morocco, someone said to me: “In Paris, you are going to be deciding who’s going to die and who is not. The lives of our children are at stake” …

“For the first time in the history of the world, there is a threat that concerns everyone. It’s possible we’ll pull together like a small, shipwrecked family in an infinite universe. This is our moment of truth. The only thing we recycle well are words and speeches; the same ones have been going round and round for 25 years.

“The US military now considers climate change to be a threat on a par with terrorism … It’s unprecedented that Washington and Beijing will make commitments in Paris.”

Nicolas Hulot is the President of France’s special envoy for the protection of the planet. Via Why Do I Care? and the Irish Times

6.

Toby Morris

eight_col_01-Header-COP21

Toby Morris is an Auckland cartoonist and illustrator. From RNZ’s Toby & Toby feature

7.

Nature: The Scale of the Challenge

“Scientists are confident that 2015 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, and heat waves could become extreme enough to surpass the limits of human survival around areas such as the Persian Gulf within a century. Coastal regions of the Arctic may be covered by ice for only half of the year by 2070, and crop yields could reduce by as much as 25% in the second half of this century, even with only modest warming. Those projections put negotiators’ current efforts into perspective.

“For all the optimism surrounding a deal in Paris, climate change remains a problem driven by a troubling fact: if countries don’t significantly reduce their emissions, the planet and people will suffer, with the most vulnerable hit first and hardest. Deeper and quicker political action on climate change remains imperative.”

Via editorial, Nature.

8.

The New Scientist: Any Old Deal Will Not Do

“Many will hail any deal as a success. But a weak deal would be dangerous: it would achieve little but instil complacency.

“A genuinely successful deal would deliver rapid emissions cuts, not vague promises or ‘reductions’ that exist only as sleights of hand. It would provide real incentives for countries, companies and consumers to rationalise energy use; opening the door to a global carbon price would help. And it would put the world’s collective will behind ways to ameliorate the causes and effects of climate change.

“We cannot afford a triumph of mediocrity in Paris. We need a good deal; no, a very good deal. If we don’t get one, all bets are off. Some say failure at Copenhagen has spurred negotiators on to make progress this time. If that turns out to be wishful thinking, wishes may be all we have left.”

Via editorial, New Scientist magazine, UK

9.

Jason Box and Naomi Klein: The Link with Syria’s War

“The connection between warming temperatures and the cycle of Syrian violence is, by now, uncontroversial. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in Virginia, this month, ‘It’s not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.’ …

“A climate summit taking place against the backdrop of climate-fuelled violence and migration can only be relevant if its central goal is the creation of conditions for lasting peace. That would mean making legally enforceable commitments to leave the vast majority of known fossil-fuel reserves in the ground. It would also mean delivering real financing to developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change, and recognizing the full rights of climate migrants to move to safer ground. A strong climate-peace agreement would also include a program to plant vast numbers of native-species trees in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, to draw down atmospheric CO2, reduce desertification, and promote cooler and moister climates. Tree planting alone is not enough to lower CO2 to safe levels, but it could help people stay on their land and protect sustainable livelihoods.”

Jason Box is a climatologist. Naomi Klein is author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”. Via the New Yorker.

10.

Enele Sopoaga: We Need a Deal to Save our Islands

“Failure is not a fallback position, it is not an option, we cannot have it as an option. We must get success. We may be able to run away, we may be able to purchase land in other places, maybe Australia, New Zealand. But that won’t stop climate change, it will not stop the cause of climate change. It will not assure the people of Tuvalu that they will be safe there.

“We need to have this Paris agreement because otherwise there won’t be any survival processes to save the people on these islands. We do it now together or we all fall.”

Enele Sopoaga is the Tuvalu prime minister. Via ABC

11.

Pope Francis: Catastrophic if Special Interests Prevail

“The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected … The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented …

“It would be sad, and dare I say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and interests.”

Pope Francis is, well, he’s the Pope. Via the Vatican and AP

12.

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez: We Get to Change the Course of History

“We are approaching 21 years of United Nation climate talks and in the last 20 years of negotiations almost no agreements have been made on a bonding climate-recovery plan. Our window of opportunity to take action is shrinking as the problem exponentially increases. … What’s at stake right now is the future of your children, our children, my children …

“We are being called upon to use our courage, our innovation, our creativity, and our passion to bring forth a new world. So, in the light of this collapsing world that we see, what better time to be born than now? What better time to be alive than now? Because this generation … we get to change the course of history. Humans have created the greatest crisis that we see on the planet, and the greater the challenge, the higher we’ll rise to overcome it … I don’t want you to stand up for us — I want you to stand up with us.”

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 15, is the youth director of Earth Guardians. Via the UN

13.

Tim Groser: A Bad Idea to Shoot the Cows

“I will be very surprised if we don’t get an agreement. I think it’s a completely different situation to Copenhagen for a number of reasons. We’ve got a much more realistic negotiating proposal on the table. Secondly, I think the science has strengthened. I think there’s a much wider sense of understanding now outside Europe, which was leading the charge there. And I think, in a paradoxical way, this absolute tragedy in Paris puts very high stakes on the international community coming together on something as important as this …

“New Zealand produces the least emissions per unit of output than any country in the world. Yes, we can shoot the cows. It would make the climate worse, because the demand would have to be met by more carbon-inefficient countries and it would destroy your income and my income and all the New Zealander’s income who depend on having an efficient export industry. You can’t just kill off New Zealand’s export industry and not expect this country to go into a tailspin. Everyone who produces food produces carbon, NZ produces less carbon for food – it makes more climate sense to produce here.”

Tim Groser is NZ’s climate change issues minister. Via Q+A, TVNZ

14.

Simon Upton: All Doing Something, None Enough

“New Zealand is like every other country in the world, and that is, it’s doing something but it’s not doing enough. It’s going to have to increase its game here. That applies to every country. Every country has some things it can do easily. Every country has some difficult things.

“In New Zealand’s case, the more difficult things are probably on the agricultural side, but on the power-generation side, it’s a country with huge renewal resources. So you can see how you could decarbonise the electricity system relatively quickly. And if you can do that, then it becomes possible to decarbonise quite a lot of your transport, because if electrical vehicles start to break through, and they are, then a country with renewable energy can switch in that direction. So I think for all countries, it’s a question of doing the things that you can do most easily upfront, and then working on the difficult issues in a slightly slower track.”

Simon Upton is Environment Director at the OECD and a former NZ cabinet minister. Via The Nation, TV3

15.

James Renwick: NZ Pledge Far From Minimum Required

“This target (30% reduction in gross emissions compared to 2005 levels, by 2030) translates to about an 11% reduction compared to 1990. This is in line with the previous target of 5% by 2020, and 50% by 2050, so there is no “strengthening” of New Zealand’s position. This new target is as weak as previously-announced ones and does not come close to what is required, if New Zealand is serious about keeping warming to less than 2 degrees (as the Government have said we are).

“The science says, compared to 1990, we need about a 40% reduction by 2030, 90% by 2050, and 100% by 2060 – and then negative emissions (removal of CO2 from the atmosphere) for the rest of the century. New Zealand is one of the highest emitters in the world on a per-capita basis. Our dependence on agriculture and already high fraction of renewable electricity are not valid excuses for taking serious action. If all countries followed New Zealand’s lead, we would be in for very significant climate change impacts and catastrophic damage to the New Zealand and global economy.“

James Renwick is a professor in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington. Via Science Media Centre

16.

Helen Clark: A Critical Part of Sustainable Development

“Without decisive action now, it will undermine decades of development gains. For lower income countries, the impact is most acute. They’ve contributed the least of the problem but they are suffering the worst consequences and they have the least means to adapt to climate change’s effects. As the administrator of the UNDP I see the impact of volatile and unpreventable climate, from farmers in California, experiencing protracted droughts, to the super storms of the Pacific and flooding in Europe, our erratic climate is having major impacts …

“Tackling climate change contributes to sustainable and resilient development. The Paris conference can help accelerate action where it’s needed, including in investment in green and renewable energies and in innovative and locally appropriate sustainable solutions.”

Helen Clark is a former NZ prime minister and Administrator of the UN Development Programme. Via UN

17.

Thirty-seven Republican Senators: Serious Concerns About Impact of Deal on US Economy

“We support international dialogue on global environmental problems. We do, however, have serious concerns about the impact any deal reached in Paris will have on the American economy and our international priorities. Our constituents are worried that the pledges you are committing the United States to will strengthen foreign economies at the expense of American workers. They are also sceptical about sending billions of their hard earned dollars to government officials from developing nations.

“Your administration agreed to help raise $100 billion annually in funding for developing nations as part of the Green Climate Fund. The target for the Paris Conference was to raise an initial $10 billion. You have unilaterally pledged $3 billion in US taxpayer funds to the Green Climate Fund without the consent of Congress. Congress has never authorized funding for the Green Climate Fund. While the Executive Branch and Congress both play an important role in the foreign policy of our nation, Congress ultimately holds the power of the purse. We pledge that Congress will not allow US taxpayer dollars to go to the Green Climate Fund until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent.”

From a letter to Barack Obama from 37 Republican US Senators.

18.

Matthew Hooton: Beware the Environmentalists’ Crap

“At Copenhagen, the incompetent Danish government, UN and IPCC, who were all focused on an impossible universal agreement with binding GHG targets for even the smallest emitters, were pushed to one side. Instead, wondering what on earth they were doing at such a circus, US president Barack Obama, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh took charge, negotiating a two-and-a-half-page Copenhagen Accord. It wasn’t much and the environmental movement was vicious in its condemnation, literally saying babies would die.

“But it was the first time the only countries who actually emit any material GHGs had agreed to anything, including to keep temperature rises to below 2 degrees. Since then, New Zealand has focused on trying to help facilitate a further agreement acceptable to the big three. If they are in, the world will be saved. If not, we’ll all drown, or fry, or something. Anything anyone else says or does is irrelevant. Remember that as you are bombarded by all the environmental movement’s crap over the next two months.”

Matthew Hooton is a public relations executive and commentator. Via NBR

19.

Maurice Newman: Cover for Creating a New World Order

“This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN. It is opposed to capitalism and freedom and has made environmental catastrophism a household topic to achieve its objective. …Make no mistake, climate change is a must-win battlefield for authoritarians and fellow travellers … Having gained so much ground, eco-catastrophists won’t let up. After all, they have captured the UN and are extremely well funded. They have a hugely powerful ally in the White House. They have successfully enlisted compliant academics and an obedient and gullible mainstream media (the ABC and Fairfax in Australia) to push the scriptures regardless of evidence.

“There is a real chance Figueres and those who share her centralised power ambitions will succeed. As the UN’s December climate change conference in Paris approaches, Australia will be pressed to sign even more futile job-destroying climate change treaties. Resisting will be politically difficult. But resist we should. We are already paying an unnecessary social and economic price for empty gestures. Enough is enough.”

Maurice Newman was an advisor to former Australian PM Tony Abbott. Via the Australian newspaper

20.

John Oliver: The Children Are the Future

“We’ve already proven we cannot be trusted with the future tense. We’ve been repeatedly asked, ‘don’t you want to leave a better Earth for your children?’ And we’ve all answered, ah, fuck ’em.”

21.

CernWatch: it Appears the Entire UN 2030 Agenda Is in Full Swing

“The connection here with CERN, climate change, Paris, France, terror attacks, there’s a lot to chew on here.”

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