The messaging from Le Bourget today comes from French President François Hollande, who stated his concern over a planned agreement on climate change, “The greatest threat is not that we aim too high and miss. The greatest danger is that we aim too low and only do that.”
However, the good news from today is that it appears a confidential draft agreement has been reached and will now be submitted to the foreign ministers for their review this week.
A considerable amount of ongoing debate between developed and less developed countries has focused significantly on India. Unfortunately, 55 percent of power production in India is through coal, the fuel of choice for Indian economic development. India’s leaders have stated that they plan to double the use of coal within their borders, in order to help bring electricity to over 300 million citizens without access to energy currently.
On a positive note despite this troubling trend in India, developed countries have collectively pledged in excess of 57 billion dollars to assist investment in clean energy by developing countries. With no such investment, countries like India will not possess the capacity to continue economic growth and at the same time increase the use of renewable energies.
Meanwhile, 20 kilometers back in Paris at Le Petit Palais, we participated in Earth to Paris, a congregation of a veritable who's who in the climate movement by a number of partners including the United Nations Foundation, National Geographic, UNICEF, Facebook, and Pacific Gas & Electric among others. As participating representatives of Global Green USA, we were witness to the wisdom and passion of such notables as Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Goodall, Tom Steyer, Governor Jerry Brown, and actor and activist Adrian Grenier.
While Dr. Jane Goodall focused on the untenable practice of clear-cutting forest and its effect on global warming, Sylvie Earle lamented the loss of half the world’s coral reefs, degrading continuously through the acidification of the ocean. Whether the devastation occurs on land or at sea, both of these well-respected climate champions point to politics and corruption as significant contributing factors to our inability to limit deforestation and ocean acidification.
On the flip side, Gov. Brown was able to speak to the success of California as a state that has lead the way in mitigating climate change by demonstrating first hand that green energy really can be an economic engine of growth.
The governor's comments were lauded by businessman and climate champion philanthropist Tom Steyer, who highlighted the successful job growth rate in California, faster than any other state in the US, in large part due to leaders creating a scale of green energy that places it below the cost of fossil fuels. While Governor Brown was optimistic that this COP21 will be the most significant since the original COP10 in RIO, Mr Steyer focused on the importance of increasing the momentum established here in Paris.
From a business perspective, ambassador of Dell Corporation Adrian Grenier perhaps put things in the simplest terms by quoting founder and CEO Michael Dell, who said that if his name is on every product the company produces, the last place he wants to see it end up is in oceans and landfills.
As we enter the final few days of COP21, it has been interesting to witness the arrival of celebrities and musicians ranging from Bono to Madonna to Leonardo DiCaprio and others who have brought significant media attention to the issue of climate change. COP21 has elevated the issue to perhaps its highest level of public awareness in history. We can only hope that such awareness here and around the world will lead to collaborative universal action to mitigate the threat impacting us all with significant consequences for humanity if we don't act now.