Making it Happen at COP21!

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On the 4th day of of the climate summit in Paris, CAT launched it’s new report ‘Zero Carbon: Making it Happen,’ in order to open new conversations on overcoming the barriers to change.

The serious nature of the challenge ahead is much more prominent than I have ever experienced at any UN Summit to date. There is a growing awareness that things need to shift radically. The official UN process’s ‘Structured Expert Dialogue’ made a strong point about 1.50C being a better guardrail for a climate safe future. President Hollande mentioned 1.50C in his opening speech. I was also pleased find the current draft of the UN process’s ADP (Ad-hoc Durban Platform) text now gives more recognition to zero carbon by mid century.

paulallenatcop21The important question how do we convert such goals into national scale action plans which actually acknowledge there is only so much remaining carbon that humanity can safely burn, whilst also recognising the major share of this belongs to developing nations who have not been burning coal, oil and gas for the past 150 years, but now need it to put in the infrastructure for new development pathways.

Between CAT, the International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE), Negawatt, Track0 and The Danish Folkecentre we designed a two part side-event that aimed to open new conversations and showcase the kinds of actions by developed and developing countries that could form the basis of a global agreement.

To set the scene Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre outlined the scale and speed of the actions needed that could hold an increase in global temperature, consistent with science and on the basis of equity. He made a very clear and robust case that to have any chance of achieving this demands deep reductions in energy demand from now to 2030 by the wealthy high emitters, plus a Marshall-style plan build programme of very low-CO2 energy supply.

To highlight what solutions would look like for industrialised countries, I presented the findings from Zero Carbon Britain and introduced the new “Zero Carbon: Making it Happen!” project. This actively seeks to integrate research and cutting-edge thinking from across sectors, scales, borders and disciplines to identify both the barriers to achieving a zero carbon future and the means to overcome them. Over the coming months, we will be building dialogues with researchers working in economics, psychology, sociology, history, politics and other social sciences, as well as in arts and culture, plus insights from those working practically on the ground delivering renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, sustainable food projects, and more.pacop21

As COP21 marks a vital turning point for humanity, we have pulled together our initial findings to share. We also know there will be an incredible resource of highly skilled people at COP21, so sharing what we have found to-date is also a good way of engaging the great variety of research and practice that is gathering in Paris.

My presentation was followed Yves Marignac from negaWatt who outlined how, with increased energy efficiency, France could rapidly switch to 100% renewable energy. Our long-time collaborator Gunnar Olsen of INFORSE then backed this up with a range of other EU scenarios further demonstrating how such long industrialised nations can shift much more rapidly to recognise the historic obligations of the long time emitters. We concluded the first session by outlining the Who’s’ Getting Ready for Zero report which brings together over 100 scenario, models and practical projects from city to global scale.

I then passed the chairing of the event over to Usha Nair who led us through the second session that showcased new ways of development, drawn from practical real-life examples from majority world nations. Usha led us through an inspiring selection of new ways that countries from the global south can develop to better provide for their citizens, without the need to follow failing western patterns; instead drawing on their indigenous skills and resources, but in 21st Century ways. We were taken on a tour of pro-poor, low-carbon developments from India and South Asia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Senegal also highlighting the key role of women as change makers in their communities.

There was no lack of drive in any of the examples presented; the key barrier was access to the investment from initiatives such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund that supports projects and programmes in developing countries. Another report launched earlier the same day by Oil Change International, highlighted a solution to this, which would also drive the transition needed in the industrialised world. New analysis reveals that G7 countries along with Australia spend 40 times more on support for fossil fuel production than they do in contributions to the Green Climate Fund. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States spend $80 billion per year in public support for fossil fuels, while their total pledges to the Green Climate Fund only amount to $2 billion per year. Alex Doukas, Senior Campaigner for Oil Change International said;

“Though rich countries are crying poor when it comes to what they can offer on climate finance, we already know where to find billions of dollars that could be used to support climate action and adaptation to climate impacts in poor countries: we can shift the hundreds of billions of dollars in public support for fossil fuels and use it to support climate action,”

To close the event we distributed postcard flyers showing how those in Paris could download our new report and engage with the Zero Carbon: Making it Happen project, which received a very positive and enthusiastic welcome. Perhaps Prof. Kevin Anderson summed things up best with the quote from Robert Unger on his final slide.

“At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different.”

To download Zero Carbon: Making it Happen report visit: