COP 21 in Paris : Not your average conference!

In Paris – COP21 is underway. It’s all happening.

On Saturday 28th December PlaceTo Be launched with a party. In a sense the party hasn’t stopped. It’s get up early and get ready for anything. Today I had done a filmed interview before breakfast and that certainly wasn’t on the list. Meeting people from all corners of the Earth, everyone with a story and some with extraordinary credentials. There is so much going on at the Place To Be it’s hard to leave  – many must-see speakers, excellent movies, singers, talks, briefings, analysis, reports and conversations over breakfast.  And that’s just here at Place To Be.  There’s a lot to check in on out there too – so much still to do. The challenge from here will be pace – how to last the distance through to December 12th.

There are six scheduled two-day workshops to choose between:

  • Dismantling the Buying Imperative 9        (Margi did this one)
  • The Balm of Nature                                        (I’ve just finished this one)
  • Invoking the Spirit of Change
  • Empathy In Action
  • A Children’s World
  • Life Renewed

And there are fourteen exceptional evening talks – chapters in the New Story being created here.  The first five have now happened already bringing to us a range of luminaries including James Hanson, Naomi Klein, George Marshall, Rob Hopkins and Vandana Shiva.

  1. B–The Message : “Why Doesn’t the Message Come Across?” (29 Nov)
  2. B–Come : “How shall we learn from the past?” (30 Nov)
  3. B–Clear : “How can scientists talk about climate change differently?”  (1 Dec)
  4. B–Modern : “What is the Role of Technology in changing the world?” (2 Dec)
  5. B–eing : “How to reconnect with our human nature?” (3 Dec)

Next to come are :

  1. B–Usiness : “How can we revamp our economies and invest the future?” (4 Dec)
  2. B–Immersed : “Special focus on ocean and climate” (5 Dec)
  3. Let it B … “A new mission for religion and spiritualities” (6 Dec)
  4. B–The Power : “How shall we redesign collective action to answer the biggest threat humanity has ever been facing?” (7 Dec)
  5. B–Or Not To B : “How can we build a new shared meaning?” (8 Dec)
  6. B–Haviour : “How to Change Everyone to Change Everything” (9 Dec)
  7. B–Cause : “What are the Legal Priorities We Need to Deal With?” (10 Dec)
  8. B– Long : “How to Act on Time” (11 Dec)
  9. B–Ginning : “This is Not the End” (12 Dec)

There are a heap of other interesting, even exciting things that could veto some of these events in the programme here. Plus there are people in Paris to catch up with – I’ve already bumped into Deb Hart, with wings, and Cindy Eiritz, had dinner with Fiona Armstrong. Still hoping to catch up with John Wiseman and Kate Auty. Terry Lewis from Portland, Oregon and Roger Doudna from Findhorn, Scotland are staying at Place To Be so we have ample opportunity to catch up and there many others of course, including Chris Jordan from Seattle, Washington, Paul Chatterton from Leeds, England. Mark Jacobsen (Stanford University, San Francisco) has emailed to catch up next week and I was lucky enough to talk very briefly with James Hanson on Tuesday night.


There are many people to meet and discuss things with here of course and although, the topic of Safe Climate Restoration may not be the central focus of their work most people are open to or in agreement with the idea of safe climate restoration.

How many believe it is possible I don’t know but it was good to see yesterday’s Guardian articleby Karl Mathiessen which asks: Should we be aiming to keep global warming to 1.5C, not 2C? “2C the widely reported safe global warming limit, would still mean devastation for many countries that are pushing for a more ambitious target for climate deal in Paris – but”Mathiessen ask,  “is 1.5C realistic?”

I say ‘No’ to this question because 1.5C still gives us dangerous climate change. It is still a woeful compromise. I believe with the amount of effort involved either way we should go for what we really want – a return to the climate conditions that have supported our biosphere so well for so long – and that we give it our all.

I’m obviously not looking at this through a ‘Business As Usual’ lens. I’m looking at an Emergency Mode where the funds necessary can / will be found and it is conceivable that we could run the full infrastructure transition with three eight hour shifts a day so that  thirty years of work could be accomplished in ten. Time is of the essence and, if everything’s at stake, the human species can do this. When the balance has been restored or is on track at least we can move out of Emergency Mode and start building the future we want. Humans can do amazing things when the need is great.

The article is worth a read. In it Bill Hare said scientists also had a responsibility because pessimism would be self-fulfilling. “The more observers say it can’t be done, the less likely it is to be done. So scientists have an impact on the policy debate.” We all do.

Something IS changing. I’m seeing growing support and meeting more and more people who are now pushing for 1.5. A few even say – without prompting – that 1.5C is too high so maybe something is starting to bubble up. I take it as a good sign.

The biggest issue being ventilated more and more is that of climate injustice. The penny has dropped that some pacific ocean and indian ocean island states have already been doomed to disappear as ocean levels rise with the warming already incurred. This has brought home other terrible consequences of sea level rise to human coastal communities. Not just these. Food security has finally made it into the serious priority list and the ramifications for many countries around the world are horrendous. These things are being understood in a context that clearly points the finger at where the responsibility – and the ability to make a major difference – really lie.

Again the Guardian publishes the evidence (Wednesday 2nd December) “The richest 10% of people produce half of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10%, British charity Oxfam said in a report released Wednesday. Disputes over how to share responsibility for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and aiding climate-vulnerable countries are among the thorniest and longest-running issues in the 25-year-old UN climate process. “Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Oxfam climate policy head, Tim Gore, said in a statement. “But it’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and while they have to do their fair share, it is rich countries that should still lead the way.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 9.02.54 AMThe report said that an average person among the richest one percent emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 10%. Developing countries say the West has polluted for much longer and should shoulder a bigger obligation for cutting back. They also demand assurances of finance to help them shift to less-polluting renewable energy,  shore up defences against climate impacts such as sea level rise, droughts and super-storms, and to cover damage that cannot be avoided. “We hope advanced nations will assume ambitious targets and pursue them sincerely. It’s not just a question of historical responsibility – they also have the  most room to make the cuts and make the strongest impact,” Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, told Monday’s opening of the summit by world leaders.

Oxfam said its analysis “helps dispel the myth that citizens in rapidly developing countries are somehow most to blame for climate change.”

The other night James Hanson said he is very pessimistic about the outcome of this COP. He said that the problem with Obama’s commitment to reducing emissions and of all the commitments, is that without a binding global agreement for all countries, a piecemeal approach will simply drive the price of fossil fuels down and someone somewhere will continue to burn them. He says we need a fee imposed – a fixed price on carbon – and that the money should go to the people and from them into the economy.

For myself I am sure COP21 wont deliver results that are commensurate with the scale of the emergency – I don’t believe it will even come close. But what I think can be hoped for is that a clearer, more honest, realistic and, let’s face it, frightening picture is being revealed and there is greater receptivity for this even though it is so unwelcome. I am optimistic that this will galvanise people both inside and outside of the political system to step up and take seriously the need to truly transform the way we individually and collectively live; the personal and the political.

I hope that there will be enough wind in the sails that momentum will built, opportunities grabbed and readiness to act enhanced. And we know that the circumstances warranting action are going to keep coming. We have to get ready anyway.

I want to see full recognition that we have a global climate emergency of the most severe proportions greater than anything we have ever seen. With this recognition will come a response, a ‘mode of being’ equivalent to the threat faced – Emergency Mode – and from this we will work our way through the crisis.

When we emerge at the other side and look back we’ll wonder why the hell we left it so late and had to lose so much? Why we didn’t “Just Do It”? And by then we will know the answers to those questions too. … If we don’t already.



About Giselle Wilkinson - 4allsentientbeings

Environmental conservation, community and cooperatives have been enduring threads in my life. Promoting sustainable lifestyles and more lately, focussing on restoring a Safe Climate, is work expressed predominantly through organisations such as The Sustainable Living Foundation (which I co-founded in 1999 - current President) and the others listed as links below. I am some way into a professional doctorate with MIECAT on "Mobilising Whole Communities to Restore a Sustainable Environment" and have in recent years moved into MURUNDAKA – a (more) sustainable, (more) affordable co-housing community / housing cooperative in Heidelberg, Melbourne (for which I gave up my co-op house of 19 years including veggie garden and small orchard) and it's great. I'm also a mum of two grown up daughters and have five step children.
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