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1.5º to Stay Alive - Report on COP21


1.5º to Stay Alive - Report on COP21

by Tish Levee

10,000 pairs of shoes take the place of 200,000 people who weren't allowed to march due to security reasons. Even the Pope and the UN Secretary General are said to have sent their shoes.

By Tish Levee

A victory for all of us, the Paris climate conference  COP21 was far different than the meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. Driven by grassroots movements around the world, such as, the conference represented not just big developed countries, but also many small, especially vulnerable ones, already feeling the impacts of climate change—especially sea level rise. Unique, also, was the involvement of state and provincial governments and the mayors of 400 cities.

Heard throughout the conference and shared widely on social media, “1.5 to Stay Alive,” was the rallying cry of small island nations and other vulnerable countries. A victory for them, 1.5 Cº became an aim of COP21, with an agreement to limit global warming to below 2º Celsius—3.6º Fahrenheit. However, many detractors maintain that neither goal will be enough. Already the world is 1º C above pre-industrial levels, and the Arctic is warming twice as fast, which is important because as it heats up, more ice melts, raising sea levels. While all but ten of the 195 participating countries—the ones representing 98% of greenhouse gas emissions—submitted specific pledges by Dec. 10th, temperatures would still climb to 3.7º  C, even if they’re all fulfilled. 

Many climate leaders, including the “father of climate change,” James Hansen, who called it a “fraud” and Sonoma County’s Mike Sandler, co-founder of the Center for Climate Protection, felt the agreement did not go far enough. Read more from Mike. Also saying COP21 is not enough was a coalition of Indigenous People, many of them islanders, whose very lives are threatened by sea level rise (SLR). Still, it’s the first significant progress that has been made to date.

Side events at COP21 made important contributions. Mike Sandler was part of Another was the Pacific Coast Collaborative, including the Mayors of Oakland and Vancouver, B.C., the Minister for Environment for British Columbia, the governor of Washington, and our own Governor Jerry Brown. My friend Cate Kozak, a freelancer from North Carolina,, was in Paris and attended this meeting; she said they discussed their success with carbon trading and how good it’s been for their economy. Governor Brown’s stressed that people against it don’t realize what a job creator it is! Cate was disappointed that there was “zilch” from the East Coast—the Carbon Reduction Collaborative was just among power plants.

She loved how really well organized the whole conference was; while there was lots of security, it all moved smoothly, and transit in Paris was free for the whole conference. Because it was held in Le Bourget, a suburb of Paris, Cate didn’t get to see many of the grassroots events that substituted for the planned 200,000 person climate march—canceled for security reasons. Iconic pictures of the 10,000 pairs of shoes, including the Pope’s and UN Secretary Gen. Ban Moon Ki’s, in an empty plaza the 1st morning; a circle of people holding a red ribbon around Paris; and the large peace sign with solar rays and  the words “100% Renewable” in front of the Eiffel Tower, swamped the internet. Meanwhile nearly 800,000 people took part in over 2300 climate actions in 175 countries. 

Like Cate, I’m really optimistic that this ground breaking agreement, while not legally binding, but essentially a guideline, holding everyone accountable, will begin to point us toward a reasonable goal. Congress would have had to approve a legally binding agreement, which is why Pres. Obama didn’t want one. However,  this is such a big thing that national pride and the possibility of shame will keep nations in line. Plus there are 5 year check-ins built into the program and the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was directed to do a special report in 2018.

I don’t agree with some that we don’t have the science to get this below 2º C. I believe what we lack is the will. This is truly a renewable resource, as Al Gore stated. We must do everything we can to keep all fossil fuels in the ground and wean ourselves off them as quickly as possible, while moving forward on all fronts to use more renewable energy. It can be done! Other countries already do it!

Copyright,  Tish Levee 2015