At this moment word leaders, diplomats and politicians from everywhere on the earth are meeting in Paris to discuss the planet’s fate at the 21st Conference of the Parties. But this time, however, the citizens of this planet are watching, participating, and actively shaping the atmosphere of the negotiations. It is clear that the failure at the last COP in Copenhagen was unacceptable to the planet and its people, and this time the people are determined to show those writing the climate agreements that we can’t afford to postpone action any longer.
This past week at Bard, as part of our bi-weekly national climate seminar we had the privilege to listen and speak with Neil Leary, the Director of the Center for Sustainability Education at Dickinson College and long running attendee of the COPs.
Leary emphasized the importance of observers in COP21 and helped clarify their role, “They function as eyes and ears of many different constituencies around the world. They are watching and paying attention and making the national delegates aware that what they are doing is not going unnoticed,” said Leary.
What is more, the observers at COP21 are demonstrating the power of the populace by influencing the outcome of the Conference through their strength in numbers, “They create the will for political action,” Leary said.
They are also bringing local expertise to the international convention and offering business and technological solutions to climate change. “One of the things that has become evident over the last ten years is that international agreements they don’t reduce GHG emission” Leary said, “they set broad parameters in which that can happen, but to actually do something about climate change takes action by cities, businesses, organizations and individuals, observers at this COP are on for front of that civil society.”
The agreement that is thought to come out of COP21 will be different from the past agreements, in part reflecting this notion that the people on the ground are the drivers of mitigating climate change. It is expected that COP21 will deliver a more “bottom up” approach, where countries come to the table with what they can and are willing to do to for the health of the planet. It will be a more self-determined and voluntary structure, as opposed to a more heavy-handed “top down” approach.
Unlike in Copenhagen, at this Conference America is leading the way to climate action by showing the steps we are taking domestically to cut carbon emissions. One of the U.S.’s biggest negotiating tools for the success of the Conference is the Clean Power Plan, which demonstrates the U.S.’s commitment to the health of the planet and the seriousness with which it is taking climate change.
This is why we at the Power Dialog are dead sure of the importance of showing state politicians and regulators that the citizens and students of the U.S. are watching and understand the importance of the Clean Power Plan. Like the observers in Paris, we have an opportunity to make it clear that we care about climate change and its effects on the planet and future generations of human beings.
Also: Check out this awesome art installation happening in now in Paris, and demonstrating the power of the people.