TOM BUTT E-FORUM: Report from Paris - Part 1


Today (Tuesday) we are ground zero of the Climate negotiations. Our team, which consists of Dawn Weisz, executive director of MCE (Marin Clean Energy), Jamie Tuckey of MCE, Tom and Jane Kelly of KyotoUSA andSequoia Foundation, and Shawn Marshall of LEAN Energy, is now set up in the Climate Generations Areas, also known as the “Green Zone.” We have a booth, and we are talking to people about CCA (Consumer Choice Aggregation) in California and MCE.


Jamie Tuckey of MCE and Tom Kelly of KyotoUSA at Power to the People booth 

There are two Zones at UNFCC COP21 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – Congress of the Parties 21). The Conference Centre, also called the “Blue Zone” requires special credentials. The Climate Generations Areas, also known as the “Green Zone” is open to the public.

The conference venue is a sprawling complex north of Paris at the site of a former airport where Lindberg landed after his transatlantic flight. It includes some permanent exhibit halls, but most of the spaces are temporary structures of fabric and OSB (oriented strand board – a plywood-like wood panel product). It looks like they don’t have ADA in France because most of what is here is an ADA lawyers dream. 

The Green Zone is like a giant trade show focusing on climate action, sustainability, renewable energy, environment and related matters for both NGSs and businesses. It has booths, presentations, theaters, restaurants and lounges. The crowd in the Green Zone is clearly younger and hipper than that in the Blue Zone. 

The Blue Zone has some of the same trade show look but also includes plenary halls and offices for the various international delegations, including the US. This is where the business of negotiation is taking place.

We have a bit of a problem because our team was supposed to get several Blue Zone credentials, but so far only mine has been issued. We have spent endless hours haggling with officials, contacting State Department representatives and at least two congressmen, but so far no luck. I think the reason my Blue Zone pass came through is that it was processed directly through the State Department as an elected official.

Actually, it’s more than a bit of a problem because our group has a presentation scheduled in the Blue Zone onDecember 5. The people who schedule the presentations are different than those who provide credentials, and they don’t talk to each other.


Coveted Blue Zone Pass

We spent most of yesterday (Monday) at the conference venue trying to solve the accreditation issues, but on the way, we stopped at Place de la Republic to see an impromptu memorial to the victims of the latest terrorist attacks. Because of the state of emergency that still exists in Paris, demonstrations are banned, so last week people placed hundreds of pairs of shoes in the plaza to represent a demonstration. On Sunday, a real demonstration broke out but was put down by police with a hundred or so demonstrators “detained.” We saw a lot of cop cars and helicopters from where we were on Sunday afternoon, but we were not near the actual location.

Place de la Republique – a monument to the French Revolution

Tom Kelly, Shirley Butt, Jamie Tuckey and Dawn Weisz

Many individuals were remembered

The opening ceremony, also on Monday, was closed at all but heads of state, so we stopped by the Paris office of the Climate Action Network (CAN), to watch the proceedings on TV.


President Obama speaking at the opening ceremony – watching at the CAN office

A good summary of the opening was provided by ICLEI:

“We shall write a script for a new future” stated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the Opening Ceremony of the Leaders Day on 30 November. Just before, he had commemorated the victims of terror with a minute of silence.

An agreement will be concluded – this was the united message of all speakers. The presence of observers was strictly limited. Only 100 precious “Greencards” were issued as a supplement to the ordinary COP badges for admission to the Heads of States segment. Because of security concerns, NGOs were instructed that spontaneous action in that special segment would not be welcomed.

ICLEI’s Secretary General Gino van Begin and Yunus Arikan, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, attended the unprecedented gathering of heads of state. Never before in the history of the UN have 150 heads of states come together for one session, bringing all their transformative power to bear. It may shape the contours of our century, as Barack Obama put it.

The session contained a huge share of global leaders. Just to give an impression: Ban Ki-Moon, Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel and Wladimir Putin within just 90 minutes! The organizers had split the long list of speakers into two parallel plenary sessions and had rigidly limited the speaking times for each head of state.

This will be a COP of no surprises, Christiana Figueres had signaled in a previous briefing to NGO representatives. The heads of state expressed their desire to conclude an agreement, along with the need for ambition, transparency and joint action. They also emphasized their understanding of the special situation and the needs of developing countries, which require the financial support of developed countries and strategies to cope with the risks generated by climate damage and climate poverty. “Cooperation before conflict” was the motto.

It was US President Barack Obama who made it clear that COP21 would define the contours of our century. The first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last to be able to do something about it should not give room to cynism, but should root hope in collective action, Obama stated. Both Barack Obama and Russia’s Wladimir Putin highlighted that a low-emissions future can be consistent with prosperous economies. Putin also set a focus on forest conservation.

China’s Xi Jinping added that an agreement should encourage both broad participation and the transfer of technologies to developing countries. He spoke of a community for the shared future of mankind. Jinping announced that China has placed $20 billion into a South-South Fund, and has developed 100 new projects as well as 1,000 training opportunities with developing countries. He explicitly mentioned that he would pursue the agenda of no-carbon and smart cities.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the ambition of the conference in action should be visible in its result. She highlighted ambitious, binding, inclusive and fair as the four cornerstones of the agreement. While existing INDCs would not limit global warming to two degrees, the Paris Summit should demonstrate the credibility of the goal to decarbonize economies during the twenty-first century and to act in solidarity with the least developed and most vulnerable nations by keeping the $100 billion promise of Copenhagen. A binding agreement would require a framework, regular review and transparent methodology.

The list of speakers was long and impressive. And all of them where signaling their readiness to conclude an agreement.

Now it is up to the delegations to follow the lead of the heads of state. No surprises are expected…but hopefully an ambitious, binding, fair and inclusive agreement at the end of next week.

We have several events coming up that are very exciting. On December 4, we have an all-day Climate Summit for Local Leaders at Paris City Hall hosted by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

On December 5, we have a briefing by the US State Department on the progress of the climate negotiations.

And on the evening of December 5, we are invited by the mayor of Paris to a cocktail dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

There is little outward appearance that would indicate any changes in Paris following the terrorist attacks. Security does not seem any tighter than I have ever seen it, except that at a couple of places (Notre Dame and the airport) we saw several soldiers (as opposed to police) on camouflage uniforms with automatic weapons. The conference venue, as might be expected, is swarming with police, and security is tight (airport style).

We got into Paris late Saturday night after an eight-hour layover in Dublin. Our hotel is very well located near the Luxembourg Gardens and a RER (train) station that provides a direct connection to Le Bourget, the conference venue. The hotel is on a quiet street, quieter than home, and the weather here, so far, is about like home.


Reposted from Mayor Tom Butt's E-Forum

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