Day 6: An Ode to Action

  • Last day of COP21 Week 1! (And my last day here.)
  • Negotiators released a streamlined 21-page draft agreement to be negotiated by ministers next week — developing vs. developed country responsibilities, financing, and 1.5° C vs. 2° C global warming limits are still contended
  • Action Day presented ways to protect, engage, and transform the planet
  • 10 U.S. Senators led by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-NM) supported a climate deal in a press conference

A simple slogan captured the meaning of today, Action Day: “We must, we can, and we will.” Of course the subject is climate action. The “must” comes from our moral imperative to take care of our planet and prevent its degradation. The “can” comes from our technological capacity to take care of this planet, and I saw so many examples today. And the “will” comes from political will and the will of every individual and organization to recognize our moral imperatives toward the Earth and use our technology to save it.

The leadership of COP21 opened today’s series of events in the plenary hall La Loire, an open space with floors carpeted royal blue, the color of the ocean. In curved rows, thousands of delegates, representatives of organizations and businesses, and ordinary people like me sat and watched events unfold onstage. And indeed dramatic events are unfolding not only at what conference president Laurent Fabius called “the COP of action” in Paris, but also around the world —

In Chennai, where hundreds of people have been affected by floods —

In other cities and countries, where people are creatively confronting climate change —

In what UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres now refers to as an “Action World” —

In what COP20 president Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said was the start of a “virtuous cycle” between the actions of governments and common people —

In what French minister of ecology Ségolène Royal reminded us were the two places of our citizenship: our country and the planet.

We should be moving at a cosmic pace on climate action, astronauts on the International Space Station urged us in a video.

We should be mindful of our rapid anthropogenic effects, warned research Johan Rockström.

And we should seek justice, Oxfam International director Winnie Byanyima said. And rights for all human beings. And money. And will.

We should protect our oceans, said leaders who lamented water crises and thought of creative ways to solve them.

We should plant more trees, said actor and philanthropist Sean Penn.

We should focus not only on the international or national level, but on the level of city and regional governments, said speakers in the second session, which discussed how we can engage with the landscape of tomorrow.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo sat with New York mayor Michael Bloomber, who noted about cities, “The people live there, the pollution comes from there, the solutions are there.”

Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, leads an association of over 1,200 subnational governments around the world committed to climate action.

Governor of California Jerry Brown has transformed his state of 38.8 million into a massive experimental ground for renewable energy, strict building standards, and carbon emissions caps — while the rest of the country lags.

Big businesses used to lag. They used to venture for economic development at the cost of environmental sustainability and human welfare. But many have transformed so significantly as to have an event dedicated to them — the third Action Day event on transformation.

CEO of AP4 Mats Andersson has the interests of his grandchildren in mind when he runs his business. So does Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec.

Bertrand Piccard, dressed with an old-fashioned helmet and holding a 1920’s era telephone in his hand looked not at the past but at the future of aviation technology. He doesn’t want to hear about the problems; he’s interested in solutions.

There are no frontiers to climate change, said minister of Egypt Khaled Fahmy. There should be none for technology, or innovation, or climate action.

There are 1.3 billion people in the world who do not have electricity, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in Africa or Asia or the edges of a developed nation, said entrepreneur Hugh Whalan. There are children in the next generation of all countries of the world who deserve to know what an elephant is, or a blue sky, said Alibaba CEO Jack Ma.

François Hollande set us a challenge: to act for this planet because it needs us. Ban Ki-Moon held on to the microphones of his podium and told the thousands of people in the audience — including me — to mobilize as we had never before, in order to support a planet that support us all.

I will leave here tomorrow morning, early, before the sun rises. As I leave, I will remember the voices of all these people, whom we celebrate for leading cities, building businesses, and appearing in the media. They spoke with a unified voice. They called on you and me to act as citizens of the planet. They plead for us to save it. And they gave us a solemn blessing, which we must and can and will sustain: a love for Earth.

Person of the Day: You. Thank you for reading this blog and caring about the Earth.

Article of the Day: Yale made it into an official UNFCCC press release about a report on climate progress.

Day 6: An Ode to Action

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