Paris is always a Good Idea
Audrey Hepburn said that and I believe it's true. And this time, I think COP21 was a good idea. It's taken me some time to pull coherent thoughts about what I learned from my week at the largest, most ambitious global climate conference ever hosted. I think I came home overflowing with things I desperately wanted to share with people and discuss with everyone. Some of them were hard truths, criticisms, and frustrations but many were exciting, horizon-expanding ways we look at sustainability and thus climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The word "decarbonize" was on everyone's lips in Paris last month. It was on the Eiffel Tour at night. It was discussed from the perspective of cities, industries, and nations. The tools of decarbonization are within our grasp, the lifestyle, maybe not so much. I didn't feel the impact of it at the time, but something Marta Torres Gunfaus, from the MAPS project in South Africa, said, "the fear that implementation (of renewable energy solutions) would be so difficult that what looks technically and economically feasible would not be able to be implemented in the short term."
We are afraid to try.
The benefits of decarbonizing, from climate change to water and air safety, to economic advantages and local jobs are all lining up to create tremendous incentive to change. We're just so scared to do it. I suspect that the signs all over Paris that said "System Change, not Climate Change" terrify some people. They cannot imagine a new world where we live in better harmony with nature and with each other. Climate change by nature is terrifying, and that fear also shuts down our motivation.
And that is why I found a second piece of the Paris experience so compelling. It was an exhibit outside the Hotel de Ville that I stumbled upon in the night, depicting a Paris 2050 scenario, with anti-smog, plant-covered buildings, smart-water irrigation systems, energy recaptured from the heat of city sewers, advanced public transit, distributed solar and wind energy, and a postcard now-and-in-the-future glimpse of what certain neighborhoods could look like with intelligent integration of the tools we already know about.
It's way to make the transition real, beautiful, promising, and exciting. And that's why Paris was such a good idea, what better place than a city that's a living capitol to the old world, and in many ways still living in it, to open a door for all nations to enter a climate-ready future. Paris/COP21 was a door. It wasn't results, but it's open and waiting.
-by Shannon Anderson