Eyes on Paris: Weekly Photo Challenge

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The first week of the Paris Climate Talks started five days ago, on Monday.  As the talks opened, Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister,  reminded delegates:

“The eyes of the world are upon us.”

Others echoed this theme:

“I have my #eyesonParis.” Naomi Klein tweeted

“Let there be no doubt.  The next generation is watching what we do”.  President Obama declared.

“The eyes of millions of people are on you not just figuratively, but literally.”  Christiana Figueres, Head of UNFCCC,  proclaimed.

These metaphoric quotes were gathered in an entertaining article by The Guardian:  COP21: the best metaphors from the Paris climate talks.

Have you seen the #EyesonParis trend, launched on Twitter, with people posting eye selfies to show that they are watching the progress of the negotiations?

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For the photo challenge, I edited a picture of my eyes, taken while I was trying on glasses in January.  Trust me, I tried to take a selfie today, but lack of skill and photogenicity (my word) led to dismal results.

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And then there was the #Zero by 2050 action organized by SustainUS and youth delegates.  The campaign is for zero carbon emissions by 2050 to keep global warming below 2ºC.  I heard about it through the Canadian Youth Delegation.  They posted the following photo on Twitter showing their symbolic action:  painting a large zero around one of their eyes:

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This post is a submission to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Eye Spy’.  The cat photo was taken and edited by Ontheland.wordpress.com.

A Prayer for Peace is a Prayer for #COP21

A vision:

We envision a world transformed by an awareness of the true potential of every human being, where all of life is sacred and where all our social systems work in harmony with the earth. We see a world in which conflict rarely occurs, and when it does, can always be addressed by the creative energy of nonviolence. In this world, unarmed peacekeeping has replaced military intervention, restorative justice has replaced retribution, and needs-based economies have replaced consumerism, among other essential changes.

From Mission Statement of the Metta Center for Non-Violence

Recently I have been browsing the words of peace activists. It’s as if I’ve been awakened from a slumber.  I care about many issues, but like most people cannot possibly absorb and read about everything. In the last five years I’ve chosen the environment as my main area of focus, simply because I see our planet as a home base, needing to be protected from the effects of human pollution.

I have always been in favour of World Peace.  Who isn’t?  The question though is: ‘How do we achieve it—through weapons and force, or through more subtle means?’  A non-violent approach would be to consider reasons underlying human conflict.  Hungry, sick, abused people don’t get along, and they are vulnerable to those with weapons, seeking power.  Poverty, lack of clean water, unemployment, social injustices, illiteracy, and so on undermine a peaceful world.

Climate change researchers have been saying for years that climate stressors, such as drought, flooding, high temperatures, torrential storms, etc. will promote social and political instability.  This is exactly what happened in Syria. It is difficult for historians to pinpoint precise causes, but they do identify factors, and a factor that clearly contributed to the conflict in Syria today is the severe drought that region suffered from 2006 to 2010. There were major crop failures, sky-rocketing food prices, and massive migration from rural to urban areas.

The international climate talks known as ‘COP 21’, will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11, despite heightened security concerns.  The ‘show’ must go on and world leaders know this.  Recent acts of terror and the Syrian refugee crisis only emphasize the urgency of promoting global peace and stability.

The climate talks are about binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Action is needed to prevent an irreversible tipping point, when devastating climate changes will render some locations uninhabitable.  The talks are also about providing assistance to developing nations:  for sustainable development with clean renewable technologies; and for climate change adaptation.  All of these issues must be attended to—to gain and preserve peace.

Impossible is Not a Fact—Writer’s Quote Wednesday

Impossible is not a fact, it is an attitude.  

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.  

Paul Coelho, The Alchemist

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Nelson Mandela

Inspiring words–I discovered the first quote, while researching Christiana Figueres, leader of the United Nations climate change negotiations between  world governments.  A New Yorker journalist noticed that Ms. Figueres has a framed saying behind her desk that reads: “Impossible is not a fact, it is an attitude.” A fitting motto for someone who is passionate about fighting climate change, and whose role includes leading a team of 500 United Nations employees and hosting annual climate change conferences.

Christiana Figueres speaking at press conference at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 2012
Christiana Figueres speaking at press conference at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 2012

Christiana Figueres’ vision is clear: the world must find a way to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.  In other words, she is not assuming that the world will be persuaded to stop growing–especially not an option for countries in poverty that need to develop.  Her vision for the future is ongoing growth, while employing energy efficiency and clean energy, rather than fossil fuels.

While Figueres is quite aware of the obstacles and the urgency of addressing climate change, she leads with positivity, patience, and understanding.  In a recent Union of Concerned Scientists Webinar, she said  that economic “self-interest is becoming a key driving force on all levels”, as are scientific and moral imperatives.  Society as a whole, not just governments, have an important role.  The climate actions of political leaders  are being driven increasingly  by businesses, scientists, faith leaders, and concerned citizens.  

How do I relate to the ‘impossible’?   I have been wondering lately if I have a dream or whether I avoid a defined vision so as to avoid failure.   Those who have been scanning my blog will know that I am quite concerned about climate change, and while I do what I can  personally, I get discouraged by the  disconnect between where society appears to be going and the information provided by science.  Nevertheless, positive changes are happening–so my current mission is to know more about them and to share through my blog and Twitter.  Besides that, I want to express myself and be heard, which means persisting with developing a blog that many people read.  I find all three of the quotes cited above personally inspiring.  Please read on for even more inspiration from Christiana Figueres.

The ultimate discovery, on my Christiana Figueres ‘investigation’ was a Commencement Speech that she made at the University of California.  In this talk she offered two guidelines for life’s journey  distilled from her personal experiences. They demonstrate her profound sense of purpose and vision, determination, optimism, and patience:

Create Your Own Reality:

Decide to consciously exercise the power to create your own reality. The quality of your life is not determined as much by what happens to you but rather by how you react to what happens.
Go with the determination to create the reality you want for yourselves, for your society and for your century.

 

Let the Full Plan Unfold Gradually:

Discover the joy in every individual experience in your life, and have the patience to let the full plan unfold gradually.

It is not about getting to the ultimate perfect destination right away, it is more about fully appreciating each stop along the way, and knowing that each stop has a lesson to be learned, a skill to be honed. Eventually you will be able to connect the dots, even if those connections are not evident from the start.

Sources:

The Weight of the World by Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker, August 24, 2015.

Christiana Figueres Commencement Ceremony Speech, University of California, San Diego, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.  June  13, 2015

imageThis post is being linked  to Writer’s Quote Wednesday September 23 hosted by Colleen Chesebro, author of Silver Threading.  Please follow the above link to read the launch post. As well, there are links to other Writer’s Quote Wednesday posts in the Comments section.

Spotlight on Paris, Host of the 2015 UN Climate Summit

Today I would like to feature the City of Paris, host of the upcoming international climate summit, and share a Paris video.  The international climate change talks at the end of this year are extremely important.  In every country we need national leadership to transition from a fossil fuel based society to a conserving, renewable, clean energy world. In some countries, more than others, focussed leadership  is lacking. Everywhere there are citizens, businesses, non-profits, cities, towns, provinces, states, and so on taking steps to reduce carbon emissions.  However, national leadership is still essential, to keep on top of goals and achievements and to create a consistent framework.  In my country, Canada, we have had poor environmental leadership from our federal government. Once there is a strong international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, this will have to change.

France has an important diplomatic role as host of the 21st meeting of the parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  France’s  role goes far beyond providing facilities for  thousands of delegates, visitors, and journalists who will descend on Paris in late November of this year.  As host of the talks, France is the official facilitator of negotiations, organizing preparatory meetings throughout 2015, and steering the  December talks towards a binding agreement.

If successful,  the world will emerge from the 2015 Paris talks with the first ever binding global agreement to achieve specific carbon reduction targets. The process has taken over 20 years–let’s hope that we, the global community, are successful in arriving at a fair, ambitious agreement.

Why is France hosting these talks?   Why France?  Why not France?  The answer is that world nations are divided into 5 UN regions: Asia-Pacific; Eastern Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Western Europe and Others; and Africa. The facilitator role for the climate summits rotates from region to region.  For 2015 it was up to the Western Europe and Others Region to select a host.  In 2012 France’s President François Hollande announced his nation’s interest in taking on the task; the designation became official  in  2013.

Under the Spotlight.  Of course the host of an international conference on climate change will ideally set a good example, demonstrating good practices in sustainability, conservation, and low carbon emissions in running the event.  Paris has some very interesting innovative projects on the go.  I hope you enjoy this  Paris video showing urban sustainability solutions in practice–you’ll probably recognize some of the initiatives also occurring in your community.

The flow of the video is quick, but that can be better than slow.  Here are a few of the initiatives that are mentioned:

  • City climate plan with goals for reducing carbon emissions and increasing use of renewable/recovered energy by 2020
  • Transportation sharing through bike and car rentals 
  • Cycle paths
  • Circular economy promoting recycling and composting
  • Pneumatic waste collection (I haven’t seen that one before)
  • Green walls and rooftops 
  • Geothermal heating; Solar panels
  • Renovating for energy efficiency
  • Planting trees and creating green spaces
  • Local food markets.

What’s going on in your community?  Is there a “green” initiative that you are particularly happy about?

My sources:

Official Website of COP21-CMP11

French Amer-Can Climate Talks (FACTS):  “FACTS aims to mobilize French, American, and Canadian public opinion on the issues of the conference and reinforce the dialogue between experts from these countries. FACTS is a public conference series planned to take place in seven cities in the United States and Canada involving renowned scientists, civil society representatives, NGOs, political figures, journalists and entrepreneurs”.

Road to Paris Countdown:—–100 Days to COP21

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As of today, August 17, there are 100 days to the International Climate Summit in Paris, to be held from November 30 to December 11, 2015.  Did you know that they expect roughly 40,000 people to attend the summit at Paris-Le Bourget—20,000 of whom will be officially registered?  I had no idea until today.  For those who are not in the halls of negotiation, there will be displays, and events such as debates, talks, and screenings.  There is an official  website  for COP21, which includes a wide range of information, such as a webzine with quick fact sheets, information for those planning to attend, a calendar of diplomatic events leading up to the summit,  news releases, and more.

 ACRONYM OF THE DAY:   COP21-UNFCCC 

21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

 

 

 

Road to Paris 2015: Sizing Up America’s Clean Power Plan

I am a climate change traveller–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, law, and politics–yet of utmost importance, affecting global welfare today and for generations to come.

Nobody cleared a path for themselves by giving up.

Palacia Bessette, Simply from Scratch, 2010; Courtesy of Quotationspage.com

Under the Clean Power Plan announced by the President of the United States almost two weeks ago,  power plant emissions will be reduced by 1/3 of 2005 levels by 2030.  Power plants are responsible for a major chunk of U.S. carbon emissions. The diagram below shows that electricity generates almost 40% of  U.S. carbon and that transportation is the runner up generating 34% :

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration published in How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Some states have already started to promote clean energy and others will have catching up to do. The end result will be a change in the types of energy used to generate electricity. The image below shows the energy mix for power generation on a national level in 2014. Did you know that after hydro, wind is currently the leading source of renewable energy? Carbon emitting fossil fuels–coal and natural gas– make up almost 70% of the national mix.

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, published in How much US electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Few cases of eyestrain have been developed by looking on the bright side of things.

Author unknown. Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

Under the Clean Power Plan, less coal will be burned–to be replaced by natural gas and clean renewable energy sources (wind,sun, geothermal, biomass and hydro). Recognizing that energy mix profiles vary from state to state, power plan strategies will be designed by each state to address their unique situations.

The graphs below show how the national electricity energy mix will change under the Clean Power Plan.  The starting point is on the left, projections for a no Power Plan scenario in the middle, and expected changes with a Clean Power Plan on the right. The colours are intuitive, with green for renewable energy, blue for natural gas, black for coal, and red for nuclear. Notice how on the far right there is more green renewable energy and less black coal.  By 2040, fossil fuels–coal and natural gas–will drop from 70% of the national mix to 55%.  

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Looking at the Big Picture

A considerable amount of fossil fuels will continue to be part of the power mix.  The Clean Power Plan contributes only a fraction of  Total U.S. emission reductions planned for post-2020 under the United States INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), submitted for the UN climate treaty negotiations in Paris later this year, which in its simplest form is:

26 to 28% reduction from total 2005 carbon emissions (not just from power plants) by 2025 and at least 80% reduction by 2050

Nevertheless, I choose to be optimistic.  If allowed to unfold, the Clean Power Plan will reinforce current momentum and inspire new initiatives, unleashing a snowball effect.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Colin Powell, U .S. General (1937-); Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, is in part a catch-up measure. As the President noted in his August 3 speech,  many power plants are already improving efficiency,  almost 50% of states have efficiency targets, more than 35 states have renewable energy targets, over 1000 city mayors have committed to reducing carbon pollution, and major corporations have set targets for reducing their emissions. The map below shows the number of states having targets for increasing renewable energy in power generation:

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration Institute How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015

Opposition to the Plan is a reality, especially from the coal industry and those states that rely on coal the most.  The top 10 coal-burning states rely on coal for 67 to 97 % of their energy mix.  Clearly these states will face the stiffest challenges in formulating and complying with Clean Power Plan targets.  Nevertheless, their citizens can look forward to significant improvements in air quality and health as they switch to other energy sources.

The Paris Summit in December will be a major turning point.

The Clean Power Plan will give the United States more credibility at the negotiating table.  If world leaders successfully forge a binding climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan will be  less vulnerable to neglect, postponement, or repeal.

Want to know more  about your nation’s commitments and emissions? Take a look at these resources:

Interactive map showing which countries have submitted their INDC (post-2020 climate action plan) in preparation for the Paris talks. Click a country or area of interest for a pop-up summary of the INDC. Source:  World Resources Institute Climate Data Explorer.

Interactive map showing total CO2 emissions for the period 1990-2012 expressed in million metric tons (Mtco2e). Click  countries of interest to discover total carbon output. Source: World Resources Institute  Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions Map.

Road to Paris 2015: America’s Clean Power Plan Launch

I am a climate change tourist–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate.”

“I believe there is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, in Clean Power Plan announcement, Aug. 3, 2015

Will humanity rise to meet the climate change challenge on time?  Do you have hope and if so, what do you pin your hope on?  Listening to the words of the President of the world’s largest economy as he launched the Clean Power Plan last Monday, has given me more hope that  global commitments will be forged when world leaders meet in Paris at COP21 in December.

The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious American climate action to date. For the first time, the United States government has placed significant limits on carbon emissions from electrical power plants, the source of almost 1/3 of national carbon output.

By the fall of 2016, each state must submit a preliminary plan for reducing power plant emissions by 32% below 2005 levels, by 2030. Carbon output reductions may be achieved a variety of ways including:

  • increasing efficiency of power plants (less pollution for each unit of output);
  • shifting to lower-polluting fossil fuels (use of coal will decrease);
  • increasing use of renewable resources such as wind and solar;
  • promoting energy efficiency for electricity users (reducing emissions by using less power); and
  • market-based programs, such as carbon cap and trade.

In fact, many states, municipalities, and NGOs have already taken some of these steps–now the Clean Power Plan, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, levels out the playing field, making cleaner electrical production a national goal.

Launched on August 3, 2015, the finalized Clean Power Plan has been two years in the making with extensive public consultations.  President Obama foreshadowed the big announcement on the day before with a video: “Memo to America”  and then made the official address the next day presenting, in his words, ‘the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against climate change.’  If you haven’t seen these videos yet and have time, I highly recommend them–the first one is very brief with the President’s voice over compelling images, and the second is an address to the Nation.

Will the new standards inspire new initiatives or will progress be mired in resistance and legal manoeuvrings–is the plan sufficiently bold to have an impact?  These are questions of the hour.  I will tackle these questions in an upcoming post.