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COP23 Day 6

November 11, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on COP23 Day 6

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

As I write my final blog of the week, I’ll focus on two topics.

100% Renewable Energy

First, to conclude the 100% renewable energy discussion, I highlight Vaxjo, Sweden and Costa Rica, as well as an important research paper.  Vaxjo is Duluth’s sister city, and they share a similar population around 90,000 and an outdoorsy setting with beautiful lakes.  Vaxjo’s lakes were heavily polluted in the 1970’s, and the search for solutions led to a political decision in 1996 to go “fossil fuel free.”  The city now produces about 66% of its energy from renewable sources, including for heat.  Besides energy efficiency they make use of abundant forest products to produce bioenergy.

Costa Rica is on its way to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and adding other sector goals.  Minister William Calvo said they were paying fossil fuel companies not to produce power, which is an interesting approach to compensating for stranded assets.

Earlier this week the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Energy Watch Group presented a new study which models a global transition to 100% renewable electricity.  Hans-Josef Fell, a former member of the German Parliament, explained this modeling is unique in that it modeled hourly energy demand, and showed that existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050 – or sooner if a supportive policy and regulatory framework is in place.

Managing the Grid for Carbon

Today is “energy day” at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, which was funded by Michael Bloomberg to fill the gap left by the U.S. government’s absence.  This is the first COP in history in which the U.S. has not hosted a pavilion to share information with COP attendees.

This morning I learned about new software that can solve an important grid issue.  Researchers have analyzed energy data from our regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and found that even with a large and growing share of wind energy, there are many times of the day or night in which the grid emits high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.  See a recent University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment research paper on this.  This is important for users of energy storage batteries and electric vehicles.

New software can automatically program energy – for charging stationary batteries or EV’s – that is both cheap and low-carbon, using real-time automatic analysis of what marginal resource is on the grid.  As one speaker said, this is a clarion call for open data.  Without access to grid utility data, we can’t field this software.  Europe & North America have this information available to a certain extent but other countries don’t.  As India moves to ban internal combustion engines, it will make an enormous difference in meeting Paris Agreement targets whether users are charging them at low-carbon times or not.  The software developers claim that using this program in the US will be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road in terms of carbon reduction.

There is so much else I would like to write about, but I’m out of time.  This week has been an amazing amalgam of ideas, inspiration, and examples.  Today’s talk by former Vice President Al Gore covered the spectrum from the stark scientific and meteorological data – crushingly dire and depressing – to all the reasons for hope.  A global transition to clean energy is not only possible but inevitable.  This continuum describes my COP23 experience, as I depart Germany imbued with more knowledge, information, and examples, and more hope for progress.

100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

November 10, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on 100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today I spent my day at a conference at the German Environment Ministry, just 2 train stops from the COP23 meeting. “The Local Dimension of the NDCs:  100% Renewable Energy” was co-sponsored by the Ministry and organizations committed to 100% renewable energy target.  One sponsor, ICLEI, is a global network of 1500 sustainable cities including Duluth, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.

The predominant theme of the day was that local community-scale activities on carbon emissions and renewable energy are the most important strategy to reach the Paris Agreement NDC pledges, and that 100% renewable energy is an attainable target over time.  Harry Lehman, a leader in the German government who has visited Minnesota several times, commented that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 35% is an accomplishment given the challenges Germany is facing. He talked about the next challenge in renewable energy, in which “big” players could…click here to continue reading.

Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

November 9, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

There are so many different levels at which you can interact at COP23.

My goals in attending were 1) to share the story of Minnesota’s clean energy leadership as a successful model, 2) to help explain to the rest of the world that thousands of Americans at the city, state, corporate, university, and individual level are still moving forward toward the Paris Agreement goals, with or without the support of the federal government, and 3) to learn as much as I can from the incredible resource of people here, in ways that will benefit our energy transition work at the University of Minnesota.

There are some 25,000 energy and climate experts from virtually every nation in the world here and more events than you can possibly attend. Today, I...click here to read more.

 

 

ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Yesterday, IonE’s Energy Transition Lab director Ellen Anderson was a featured member of the U.S. People’s Delegation press conference. Climate Generation joined this larger coalition of delegations to help demonstrate that the United States is showing up at the talks, despite the lack of federal action on climate change. Individuals on the press conference panel shared the progress happening for climate action within their scopes, as well as the official action demands of the People’s Delegation at COP23. Among them is a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy in all cities and states, a halt to all new fossil fuel projects, the call for nations to…click here to continue reading and watch video of press conference!

The Road Map to Bonn & COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

After leaving Minnesota on Friday night, I spent almost 24 hours traveling via an Amsterdam layover, Dusseldorf, and finally Bonn, Germany. It is so different to travel in Europe after living in the Midwest. I have clocked more miles on trains and on foot in the last 48 hours than in one month in Minnesota. It is slightly more balmy here, and my charming and tiny one-room apartment overlooks a very tiny and green garden. On Sunday night, our University of Minnesota and Climate Generation delegations met up for the first time at a traditional German restaurant that was already several hundred years old when Beethoven ate there – and the menu probably hasn’t changed: sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut with good German beer.

All afternoon on Sunday, many of us found our way through Bonn’s beautiful Rhineaue Park to attend a COP23 strategy session with an international gathering of climate non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I was struck by a participant’s simple but emphatic statement – “we are not negotiators” – and therefore must focus on “what science demands of us.” This is an important distinction at a United Nations conference where all action and legal instruments are defined by the negotiating stances, and compromises, reached by nations.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website declares this year’s bold theme: “The UN Climate Change Conference 2017 aims for further, faster ambition together.”

These themes were repeated today by COP23 leaders in the opening sessions, with a combination of aspirational pep talks and dire warnings of the current state of the climate. The session kicked off with inspiring music performances, which we watched from the overflow room. First, dozens of Bonn children led a costumed parade and sang “I’m an island.” Click here to continue reading.

Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

November 2, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, UncategorizedComments Off on Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

It’s an honor to attend the COP23 in Bonn, Germany as a member of the University of Minnesota’s official delegation and as a member of the multi-sector Climate Generation delegation. At the U we have official “observer” status for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, as a research institution, and this means we can attend official negotiations. Kind of like at the State Capitol, the official meetings are public, but as the high-level negotiators get closer to final decisions, some sessions are closed. Climate Generation is an education-oriented non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on climate literacy and education along with youth and community engagement, and their mission aligns with our mission at the Energy Transition Lab.

I am attending week one (Nov. 6-10) of the COP23, or the 23rd Conference of the Parties, to focus on energy and climate policy. My goal is to understand the role the United States plays in international climate negotiations in today’s political and policy landscape, to learn from the 197 other countries participating how they are tackling the energy transition, and to share Minnesota’s story of transitioning to a clean energy economy.

It is important for the world to know that the people of the United States are moving forward on climate leadership and clean energy – with or without the support of the federal government. There is hope that we will continue to make progress despite President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Recent analysis shows that the US will likely meet President Obama’s targets of 26-28% carbon reduction under the Clean Power Plan – even if Pres. Trump repeals it. That’s because the clean energy economy is roaring ahead, wind and solar are now the cheapest energy source, and Americans from all sectors are stepping up to fill the vacuum on national action.

Leadership is coming from the bottom up, led by cities, states, companies, universities and individuals –hundreds & hundreds of them have pledged to uphold the Paris Accord targets. In our state of Minnesota, our policies in the last decade have resulted in 23% renewable electricity and cutting coal powered electricity in half, and we are only getting started. Our largest utility, Xcel, plans to be 85% carbon free and generate 60% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 (or sooner). We have already met the Clean Power Plan targets, and have demonstrated that we can do this at a low cost while maintaining reliable power. Minnesota is leading the way for the “heartland” of America, showing that you can cut carbon, build out renewable energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and save money by shifting to a clean energy economy. In preparation for our trip, many of our Minnesota delegation recently met with Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith (as pictured above). She said our state is completely committed to this clean energy transition, and feels a sense of urgency to move forward faster.

In Minnesota, like elsewhere, we have a lot of work to do to reach state goals of 80% carbon reduction by 2050, or beyond. As we stand with virtually every other country of the world to face this challenge, we acknowledge the urgency and need for greater ambition.

As the COP23 approaches, a very big question looms: what will the official U.S. federal government participation look like? U.S. officials have said they will play a “constructive and positive role.” According to E & E News Service (10/31/17), the U.S. government plans to send a delegation led by a career diplomat, Thomas Shannon, who has called climate change “one of the world’s greatest challenges.” It remains to be seen how the delegation will represent a president who has expressed contrary views.

As I leave for Germany later this week, I will be contemplating the role of policy and leadership in solving the Grand Challenge of climate change and energy transition. Democracy requires elected officials to lead and citizens to hold them accountable, but good citizenship also asks each of us to do our own part. It is remarkable to see how bottom up leadership adds up to make a compelling difference!
For another pre-COP23 perspective, watch my interview with WCCO Anchor Esme Murphy and meteorologist Mike Augustyniak here.

ETL at UN Climate Change Conference Nov 6-11

Energy Transition Lab’s Director Ellen Anderson will be attending the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany from November 6-11. Over 195 countries will come together to negotiate climate change policy and implementation strategies of the Paris Agreement, and Ellen is an official delegate for the University of Minnesota and a member of Climate Generation’s delegation.

There are several ways to keep up-to-date on what’s happening at COP23. Ellen will be blogging daily, which will be posted on ETL’s website, so check back regularly! You can also sign up to get updates from the whole Climate Generation delegation.

We also invite you to join Ellen and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s Leigh Curry for a live webinar on Thursday, Nov 9 from 12:00-1:00 PM central time (7:00 PM in Bonn, Germany). More details on how to login to follow!

Follow along on social media with #MNCOP23 and #USPeoplesDelegation at @climategenorg on
Twitter and Facebook.

Marrakech Reflections: the University of Minnesota at COP22 by Ellen Anderson

November 18, 2016Megan ButlerEnergy Transition BlogComments Off on Marrakech Reflections: the University of Minnesota at COP22 by Ellen Anderson
cop22

Photo Credit: Climate Alliance Org (CC BY 2.0)

 

Ellen Anderson

11/18/16

Marrakech Reflections:  the University of Minnesota at COP22

We are winding up the final day of COP22, the international gathering of 190+ nations of the world in Marrakech, Morocco, with the goal of carrying forward the Paris Agreement on climate change.  This COP, or Conference of the Parties, marks the 22nd year of efforts to build international cooperation under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC).  It is the first COP meeting since the historic Paris Agreement came into effect on November 4, following the approval of at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions—including the U.S.  Marrakech has built a conference center resembling a sprawling, modern conference center tent city.  Like previous COPs, the “Blue Zone” tents hold the official negotiating sessions, dozens of country pavilions, and high-level representatives from many nations including the U.S.  The Green Zone is open to all participants and includes a cacophony of languages, speeches, songs, art, and orderly demonstrations by civil society, innovative businesses, and others.  The University of Minnesota’s official U.N delegation for week two of the COP includes 3 professors (myself, Gabe Chan, and Melissa Hortman) and 7 graduate students (please see other blogs here.) Our study abroad program has been supported by the Humphrey School, the Institute on the Environment, as well as the Learning Abroad Center.

I arrived in the beautiful city of Marrakech with trepidation, wondering how the U.S. election and President-elect Trump’s stated intentions to walk away from the Paris Agreement would be received.  The Paris Agreement was possible in large part due to the active participation of the United States, in particular the bilateral agreements President Obama forged with China and India, for the first time committing the largest emitting countries to significant CO2 reductions.  These agreements and the structure of the Paris Agreement, with each country bringing its own self-determined climate action plan or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the table, created the foundation for a global agreement with virtually every nation participating.  How would the world react if the U.S. were to back out of its commitments, would it threaten to unravel the global consensus?

The answer I heard repeatedly in Marrakech was mostly positive but tempered with realism.  At COP22 nations, civil society, business leaders and others are more determined than ever to move forward.   The most commonly heard words: momentum, urgency, and action.

Inspiration

While the U.S. election was mentioned as a possible obstacle by almost everyone at the COP, many inspiring speakers insisted that global action on climate change is both necessary and inevitable. My highlights start with Bertrand Piccard, about whom the great grandson of Jules Verne has said:  “Everything great that has ever been achieved in the world is the result of exaggerated ambitions.”

Piccard conceived and flew the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane around the world, although the aviation industry thought it was impossible to fly that distance without carrying fuel.  Piccard said that innovation requires breaking old paradigms.  He compared internal combustion engines, leaky homes, and incandescent lightbulbs—which waste roughly half their energy—with our new smart phones.  Our energy systems rely on 100 year old technology, and if we break through to new energy innovations, “imagine the market growth, jobs, and wealth creation.”  Thus, Piccard suggested, the new President must promote renewable energy in order to “make America great again.”  Significantly, Piccard’s innovation for economic growth argument does not even mention climate change. When asked how he flew virtually without sleep for 3 days, Piccard closed with these comments:

“We are prisoners of our habits, our beliefs, our certitudes.  As soon as we jump out of our comfort zone, through the magic of adventure, you can learn what you are capable of….When you fly Solar Impulse it’s like science fiction—no fuel, no sound—you are in the future—then you land and you are still in the world that burns millions of barrels of oil a day and that is the hardest part.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spoke to the need to keep “fundamental optimism” that we will move forward. Regarding the U.S. election he said “If US decides not to lead, then China will step up and lead the world” on tackling climate change.

Jonathan Pershing, the lead U.S. negotiator, speaking in Marrakech, stressed his belief that the US economic community, business community, state and local government communities, and civil society will continue to move in the direction set by the Paris Agreement.  “Heads of state can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain the durable international effort to counter climate change…Markets are moving and countries are following. Prices for renewable energy are continuing their dramatic fall.”

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry made an emotional pitch to COP22 attendees:  “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the first place.  No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input….climate change is bigger than one person, bigger than one president.”  Kerry asserted that an overwhelming majority of US citizens know climate change is happening and are determined to keep the Paris commitments.

Matt Rodriguez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, said the federal election is unlikely to affect the trajectory of clean energy and carbon reduction in California, because it has momentum, it is “working,” and it has partners from around the world.

Finally, a welcome boost to momentum came from 300 businesses who signed an open letter to the president-elect this week in support of the Paris Agreement.  The business and investor community, including Minnesota companies General Mills, Aveda, and Sheerwind, reaffirmed their “deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.”  The companies said they “want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy….Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.  But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness.”

Reality Check

While the speeches have been inspiring and focused on the positive, participants are not naïve about the repercussions of the U.S. election.  Around the COP numerous discussions with informed experts analyzed the different scenarios for U.S. actions on climate—all very uncertain.  As the President-elect’s transition team begins its work, it shows a bifurcated approach that is characteristic of the uneasy alliance in the campaign itself.  The split is between Trump’s media allies who provided an echo chamber for many of his personal and campaign statements, and the Republican Party leadership “establishment.”   It is unclear which camp will be his ultimate influencers.

The new administration has stated its intent to reverse the centerpiece of the U.S. climate plan, the Clean Power Plan.  This could come in the form of repealing rules promulgated under the Clean Air Act, defunding the EPA’s clean air program, or an unfavorable Supreme Court decision.   In the short term, research shows we are already on track to achieve significant reductions in coal power emissions, and many planned coal plant retirements will likely continue for economic reasons regardless of the rule.

Commentators and participants at the COP2 have a broad range of opinions about how the Trump presidency will affect the Paris Agreement.  Some suggest that he is unlikely to follow up on this campaign pledge, and are hopeful that, like many comments he made during the campaign, he may not plan to act on those statements and his position on climate change and the Paris Agreement could “evolve.”

Others think it is likely a “first day issue.”  If the new administrative wants to back out of the Paris Agreement, there are several possible pathways, all facing different legal, political, and diplomatic barriers.  Perhaps the most straightforward approach is to sign an Executive Order that cancels out President Obama’s ratification of the Paris Agreement.  The exit could not take effect until 2020, because it requires three years from entry into force of the Agreement, followed by a one year waiting period.

Another more complex but potentially more permanent approach would be rescind US participation in the UNFCCC which was signed by President HW Bush in 1992 and ratified by the US Senate.  If the US were to withdraw, it would require a Senate vote to reinstate.

A third approach would be to simply ignore the Paris Agreement, by not participating in UN COP meetings or negotiations.  This would be likely accompanied by defunding or reducing the authority of the key government agencies charged with leading the negotiations and implementation (State Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Energy (DOE)).

Another option would be to ask the U.S. Senate to take a vote on the agreement with the intent to defeat it.  However, this could be very unpopular with conservative U.S. Senators who could find it a lose-lose political proposition.  If they voted against the global climate agreement, they risk criticism from many of their constituents and targeting by environmental advocates.  If they vote for it, they face the threat of a primary challenge from the Tea Party or others in the Republican Party who oppose it.

Trump has sent some signals that this will be an area for early action.  However, there seems to be a possible middle path forward.  His background and history are focused on negotiating “deals” to achieve his goals.  He could give 1-year notice as a negotiating strategy, and then use his leverage to accomplish trade goals, which were a top priority in the campaign.  “He seems to be an opportunist, not an ideologue.  He takes positions that are expedient to take in any one political moment,” said a Sierra Club top attorney in an interview in Marrakech with E & E (Environment & Energy) news.

Other Republicans have suggested he use the agreement for positive diplomatic ends, to help build stronger alliances with other countries.  While the outcome is uncertain, two things seem likely: first, the Trump administration will attempt to weaken or slow efforts to reduce coal plant emissions, which may not overcome the market forces driving more renewable energy, more natural gas, and less coal generation; second, Trump will likely target climate finance obligations and reduce U.S. contributions to less developing countries.

Some experts at the COP have suggested that the Paris Agreement will continue through its implementation phase over the next four years, and the remaining parties could ramp up ambition beyond what the U.S. would have accepted.  Then after the next presidential election, a new administration could join again, but with more stringent carbon reduction, finance, and other obligations than the US would have otherwise faced.  This could put the U.S. at a disadvantage, as its emissions may rise during the Trump administration, forcing more costly mitigation later.  But it could have the additional salutary effect of strengthening the Paris Agreement so it is more likely to meet the ambitious targets limiting warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees.

In the final days of the COP, the draft Marrakech Action Proclamation is taking shape with negotiators.  This was intended to be the “COP of Action” but may end up as more of a statement of intent to continue taking action.  A recent draft welcomes the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement, reiterates the urgency to act on a warming climate, and recognizes the extraordinary momentum this year has seen.  The draft recognizes specific needs and special circumstances of least developed countries and those particularly vulnerable to climate change, and calls for the “highest political commitment’ to combat climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve adaptation; additionally it pushes for urgently raising ambition, strengthening cooperation, and increasing the flow of finance.

A final theme of the Morocco draft is a positive call for action and implementation, which will bring opportunities for prosperity.  In a nod to the election, it specifically calls on all non-state actors, like U.S. states and cities, to “join us.”  As we return to the U.S., at the top of my mind will be two final points: that the U.S risks losing its global influence by standing on the sidelines, and that progress on climate action will be up to states, cities, businesses, universities, and local communities in this power vacuum.  As I return home, I will focus on how we can help enable those local, state, and regional efforts to fill that leadership gap.

Addressing Climate and Peace in Paris and Minnesota

December 11, 2015Megan ButlerEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, NewsComments Off on Addressing Climate and Peace in Paris and Minnesota

Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and two seniors from Macalaster College explored connections between global climate change and peace at  in this editorial which originally appeared as an article on the MINNPOST

Written by: Ellen Anderson, Laura Humes and Kayla Walsh Read more →

Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

December 9, 2015Megan ButlerEnergy Transition BlogComments Off on Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

By: Hari Osofsky

This blog post written by Energy Transition Lab Faculty Director Hari Osofsky was published on December 8th in Opinio Juris Blog Archive

I appreciate the opportunity to guest blog with Opinio Juris while at the Paris climate change negotiations this week. I will aim in my blogs to complement Dan Bodansky’s excellent assessment of the negotiations among state parties by examining the broader context of what would be required to address climate change adequately and the activities by other key stakeholders.

From my observation of the first Comité de Paris and hallway conversations on Monday, December 7, the parties still seem on track to reach some sort of agreement in Paris, though perhaps not by the Friday deadline. While there are certainly some differences yet to be resolved, the tone appears to be unusually cooperative at this stage according to those who have attended many of these negotiations.

However, even if the agreement contains reference to the need to keep warming less than 1.5 degrees, which appears increasingly likely, the state parties are highly unlikely to actually achieve that with their current commitments. As one civil society participant from Latin America remarked to me yesterday, the key question is whether we hold warming at 3 or 4 degrees. While I certainly hope he is wrong, we are not on track, even is these negotiations successfully conclude, to mitigate at the levels that scientists say are needed. And as I have analyzed in forthcoming articles with Jackie Peel  and Hannah Wiseman, even if we can find ways to more constructively address energy partisanship in the United States, the Clean Power Plan will involve a complex integration of an environmental cooperative federalist law with a largely state- and regionally-based energy system.

So how do we bridge the gap between what negotiations among nation-states can achieve and what is needed? Two key pieces of that puzzle are subnational governments and the private sector (particularly corporations and investors), and my blogs this week will focus on some of their activities here.

In the process, I will also try to convey, for those who have not attended international negotiations like these, the concentric circles of activity taking place here, with access limitations between each ring. At the core are the nation-states negotiating, and even some of those meetings are only open to subsets of those negotiators. A key concern raised in the Comité de Paris by several state parties on Monday night was the need for more transparency and inclusion in the informal facilitated streams taking place this week to try to bridge differences. Outside of that are official observers, who can gain access to only a very limited set of the negotiations but are able to enter the “Blue Zone,” which contains the negotiating spaces and many of the high-level side events. Outside of the restricted space, a hall in Le Bourget and venues around Paris contain events open to the many people who are here without access passes.

As I move between sessions in the “Blue Zone” space, the people around me exude a sense of being rushed and busy with important tasks as they race among meetings and cluster in small groups in hallways. I am continually reminded of an observation by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the-chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, when she presented  at the climate change negotiations in 2005, the year that the Inuit submitted their petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming that U.S climate change policy violated their rights:

I have attended three COPs. People rush from meeting to meeting arguing about all sorts of narrow technical points. The bigger picture, the cultural picture, the human picture is being lost. Climate change is not about bureaucrats scurrying around. It is about families, parents, children, and the lives we lead in our communities in the broader environment. We have to regain this perspective if climate change is to be stopped.

While many at these negotiations clearly have that bigger-picture focus, I think that continually reminding ourselves of what all these legal conversations are really about is critical. Achieving an agreement that goes farther than anything that preceded it at Paris would certainly be a form of success, but ultimately we only succeed if we limit human suffering and ecosystem damage—and develop new opportunities—through mitigating and adapting adequately.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0)

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Administration
The Energy Transition Lab is a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in partnership with the Law School.
Funding
Funding for the Energy Transition Lab is primarily provided by the Institute on the Environment. Other funders include McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Carolyn Foundation, US Department of Energy, Wind Energy Foundation and the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. Support for energy storage work is provided by the Minneapolis Foundation, Great River Energy, Mortenson Construction, AES Corporation, Next Era Energy Resources, and General Electric. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.