(This blog delayed by a busy 24 hours in Paris, then return travel to the Bristol Climate March)
We rode into central Paris in sunshine on Thursday afternoon. The French climate had been kinder to us since the weekend, and Thursday morning dawned brighter than any that welcomed us into Brittany and Normandy.
Françoise and Laurence, our hosts in rural Senneville, a mere 60 km from the centre Paris, had fed us well the night before. Françoise even filmed our departure and rode the first kilometre with us.
The Paris that we found was getting on with life with all of the insouciance that we would have expected, regardless of the criminal actions of a few bearing guns two weeks before. Barack Obama has today saluted the UN COP21 climate talks as “an act of defiance” – the Parisiens with whom we four British cyclists shared a Metro carriage, on the way to a (most) welcome dinner with SW Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, would not have had it any other way.
- Rebecca Harms, Greens/EFA President, spoke of her grounded optimism in COP21’s bottom-up approach;
- Romain Troublé, Co-ordinator of Tara Expeditions, gave an overview of the #OceanForClimate campaign at COP21.
- Molly Scott Cato argued that public money creation must lead the way if we are to conquer climate change, as part of an expert debate on climate finance that included:
- Monica Araya of Cost Rica stating that “We need to switch narrative to co-operation & collaboration, and not apologise for it”, and identifying “the biggest and most difficult question” as “how to unplug dirty energy projects” – George Osborne really should have been there!
- Alix Mazounie of France saying that France, like many richer countries, needs to increase the political will, and focus more on funding adaptation to climate change.
- Claude Turmes of Luxembourg advocating de-risking energy finance via IRENA to shift solar power from where the money is, to where the sun is.
- Isabelle Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development and Co-operation, warning negotiators not to let “the usual suspects” of vested interests make ‘best’ the enemy of the common good at COP21.
- In a discussion of possible outcomes and communication, Asad Rehman of FoE identified the strategic challenge as democratic: recognising that people do not currently have enough power to deliver the positive change they demand – while Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg’s President of EU Council of Ministers for the Environment, summed up the EU position with “we must raise our ambition – be courageous and take responsibility”.
- A concluding interview with Polish journalist Karolina Zbytniewska highlighed why we all need the EU if we are to conquer climate change, saying that the Polish Government “thinks its national treasure is coal”, but the positive future lays in the Polish diaspora wanting to feel included in the international debate. The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey had sent apologies at the last minute, when she secured an interview with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
The hardest thing was leaving Paris, not just because I had been reminded how much I love the city, but also because our train to Caen was an hour late – meaning that Roger & I almost missed the ferry back to Portsmouth.
Sunday’s Climate March in Bristol was universally good humoured, if a little damp.
At least we had been able to march to encourage the COP21 negotiators. In Paris itself, the local anarchists were always likely to defy any ban, and seek confrontation with the riot police – but the people of Paris won the day in coming up with the defining image…
…10,000 empty shoes, including those of Ban Ki-moon and the Pope, shining a beacon for democracy across the globe, and forward for future generations, who depend on a positive outcome from Paris over the next two weeks. We can only hope that they all receive the hope that they so richly deserve.