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Postcards from Paris: A diary from the UN climate talks


I’m in Paris for the UN climate talks, which run from 30 November to 11 December. I’ll be regularly tweeting and blogging. If you find this blog interesting please feel to share it.

DAY 0 (Saturday 28 November 2015)

This weekend thousands of people will march throuh cities worldwide, including the UK, as part of a global series of events calling for action on climate change.

Sadly I won’t be one of them, as I’m now in Paris where the huge march planned for here was cancelled by the authorities in the wake of the recent terror attacks.

I’m here to attend the UN climate talks where it’s hoped, two weeks from now, world leaders will agree a new global deal on tackling climate change.

Entrance to the UN climate talks, ParisEntrance to the UN climate talks, Paris (Credit: Lang Banks)

And, despite the tragic events that took place here, thanks to positive moves by countries like the US and China, alongside leadership shown by countries like Scotland, the mood music going into Paris is more positive than at previous talks.

There are also a couple of other reasons for optimism.

We already have the draft text of an agreement, which has been in train ever since last year’s climate talks in Peru ended. Sure, that text has ballooned to some 60 pages since the last pre-talks meeting in Bonn. It also contains over 1,200 ‘square brackets’ – indicating where countries don’t yet agree. So, there is clearly plenty of work to be done to knock it into shape.

In addition to a draft text, over the past year the vast majority of countries have submitted their individual domestic climate pledges, covering 90 per cent of global emissions.

Analysis of those pledges suggests that, assuming they are actually delivered, the planet is no longer on track for a 4C increase in global temperatures by the end of the century. Instead we’d be somewhere just below 3C of warming. So, we’re making progress. We’ve started to bend the curve.

But, of course science says we need to get that number down below 2C if we’re to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change for people and nature.

However, for groups like WWF a text and country pledges won’t be enough on their own.

For us, if a deal is going to be able to protect our most vulnerable communities and places from climate change, it must be a strong, science-based agreement that closes the emissions gap, includes a mechanism that over time reviews and ratchets up country ambitions, and is clear on how the whole thing will be funded. Without clarity on finance, even a good agreement could unravel.
In short, we need to see a new era of global climate cooperation kick into action.

And while we should remain optimistic, we also shouldn’t kid ourselves about how much work remains to be done.

2015 is set to be the hottest year ever on record2015 is set to be the hottest year ever on record

This UN meeting kicks off with the news that the world is facing its hottest year on record in 2015 and the warmest five-year period recorded, according to scientists.

We should also remember that Paris is not the end of the story. It’s just one more step on the road to addressing the world’s biggest environmental threat.

In truth, the outcome from Paris is only going to be as good as what happens back home afterwards.

It’s the job of the public and civil society to not only to hold our leaders to account for their promises, but over time, and by working with others, to ensure they go much further.

That is why it is more important than ever that people back in the UK take to the streets this weekend.

And, when you’re on the climate march through the streets of London, Edinburgh, or Cardiff remember that now you’ll be not only be showing our politicians that you want them to act, but that you’ll also be marching for the hundreds of thousands of people who won’t be able to in Paris.

For all the latest on the climate talks be sure to follow @LangBanks on Twitter.

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