Sunday, November 29, 2015

14 Days to Save the World

Half a million people reportedly participated in global demonstrations of support for climate action over the weekend.  Meanwhile some 40,000 participants begin to gather for the climate conference in Paris.   This includes 147 heads of state who come to Paris at the beginning of the conference.

The terrorist attacks on Paris has not deterred these leaders, and some believe that the attacks have even spurred attendance and added to the likelihood of an international agreement:

While many leaders including Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping were always set to attend this conference, the recent violent attacks in Paris have encouraged others to come in an expression of solidarity with the French people...Delegates are in little doubt that the shadow cast over the city by the attacks will enhance the chances of agreement.

Some will link the climate crisis as a cause of terrorism, others as a greater threat than terrorism, this report suggests.  Another reason for optimism about an agreement is how committed the US is, and specifically President Obama:

[UK environmental leader] Tom Burke for one believes that going against the flow will be particularly difficult this time round. "I think one of the reasons people will find it hard to hold out at the end will be because of the level of political capital that Obama has invested in climate change, making it clear it is a primary legacy issue for him," he said.

Both the Washington Post and New York Times printed major articles linking President Obama to the issue and the conference.  Obama's Legacy at Stake in Paris Talks on Climate Change, is the Times story headline:

WASHINGTON — At a joint news conference here Tuesday with President Fran├žois Hollande of France, President Obama veered from his focus on the terrorist attacks in Paris to bring up the huge international gathering beginning in the French capital on Monday to hammer out a global response to climate change.

“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,” Mr. Obama said of the climate conference.

The segue brought mockery, even castigation, from the political right, but it was a reminder of the importance Mr. Obama places on climate change in shaping his legacy. During his 2012 re-election campaign, he barely mentioned global warming, but the issue has become a hallmark of his second term.

And on Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps any, presidency.

He comes to Paris with a moral authority that no other president has had on the issue of climate change,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who noted that Mr. Obama’s domestic climate efforts already stand alone in American history. “No other president has had a climate change policy. It makes him unique.”
Paris Summit Already A Win for Obama the Post headline begins.  It reviews his past efforts on the issue:

With the economy in turmoil, he persuaded ailing auto companies to back tougher fuel efficiency standards. He turned a portion of the economic stimulus bill in 2009 into the largest clean energy bill ever. And he has introduced the Clean Power Plan to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from industrial and power plants. 

The story notes that Obama has been preparing the groundwork for this conference for more than a year, orchestrating commitments from important countries including China, and with his own actions and words, helping to create a momentum for a Paris agreement.  Of the 190 countries represented in Paris, 180 have already pledged cuts in carbon pollution.

But as every story notes, and as everyone acknowledges, even if the strongest agreement proposed so far is approved, it won't alone be enough to "save the world"--though it could be a powerful start, a change of direction.

So this week in Paris will also focus on the next steps, such as this initiative, according to the Washington Post:

As world leaders converge on Paris for historic climate talks, a coalition of governments and private investors is preparing to launch a major research initiative that seeks to pour billions of dollars into an urgent search for solutions to global warming.

President Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are expected to stand with counterparts from 20 countries on Monday in announcing the unprecedented effort, which is aimed at spurring rapid advances in research and development for clean energy, U.S. officials confirmed Sunday.

...The 19 countries that signed up for the initiative include the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and collectively represent more than 80 percent of current global spending on energy research...

The private initiative headed by Gates consists of 28 investors from 10 countries. The list of participants includes such U.S. heavyweights as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos, as well as major international investors such as China’s Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, and Britain’s Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

The group, with a collective net worth of more than $350 billion, will provide capital for early, high-risk research on the most promising technologies, participants said.

The New York Times is providing an active update of stories on the activities in Paris.

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