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Postcards from Paris – the halfway point


I’m at the UN climate talks in Paris known as COP21. This is my tenth COP (or Conference of the Parties) but it is my first for WWF – in my former job, I was one of the UK’s climate change negotiators.   The conference centre, sited at Le Bourget airport north of Paris, is enormous and meeting rooms and people are far apart.   While over the first week most of my the time was spent in meetings or analysing new documents, my smart phone tells me that in five days I’ve walked 29 miles – well over the distance of a marathon.

Nearly 200 countries have come to Paris because they recognise that climate change is happening now.  It is speeding up and getting worse and there are already impacts around the world including more intense heat waves, more damaging storms and coastal flooding.  Countries are here to agree what to do about it and we in WWF are here to push for fair, ambitious and transformational deal that will set us on the right track to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

The Time for Climate Action is NowThe Time for Climate Action is Now

Climate talks have a particular rhythm over the two weeks.  COP21 is no different, and though this time world leaders, including US President Barak Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, came and gave the talks a big push at the start, it is generally following the same pattern.  We are coming to the end of the first week (Monday to Saturday) and there is some progress but it is slow.

I’m no longer a negotiator and observers are not being allowed in all the rooms which makes following this complex set of negotiation more difficult but the WWF team along with other civil society organisations has a pretty good web of intelligence gathering, analysis and advocacy.  Inside the negotiations, we have a team at WWF who are doing a great job at tracking what is going on.  It is complex and much is connected, and while some things are seemingly going slowly, definitely progress has been made.

In his opening address French President Francois Hollande highlighted the importance of any things including preserving biodiversity.  However this is not something that is being discussed in the negotiations themselves.  To put some focus this important issue I was privileged to give a presentation on behalf of WWF at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) event on Species Conservation in a Changing Climate on some of the great work WWF has done.  This was alongside speakers from the RSPB, Birdlife International and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).  My previous blog gives more details about climate change impacts on species.  The photos are of four animals that face increased risks due to climate change – they are few of the dozens of large animal sculptures around the conference site.

COP 21 Tiger, Elephant, Bears (credit Stephen Cornelius)COP 21 Tiger, Elephant, Bears (credit Stephen Cornelius)

We are nearly at the half-way point and have another week – possibly nine days to go.  At the moment it is still all to play for as the ministers arrive to deal with the political issues that negotiators are finding tricky.  The WWF team here will be working, including Saturday and Sunday, to keep pushing for a strong outcome from Paris.

Follow me on @SteveJCornelius for tweets about climate change and COP21.

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