Campaign zero – feeling the heat at COP23

As week two at COP23 begins, new leadership becomes ever more vital – Paul Allen reports from Bonn.

My second week at the COP23 UN climate talks has now begun. This is normally the time when the deeper negotiations begin. This has become increasingly urgent – this morning the Global Carbon Project revealed that, after three years of levelling off, humanity’s global carbon emissions are on the rise again.

For a while it looked as if we might be turning the corner, but in 2017 global emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels and industry will rise by 2 per cent. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest is that China has begun to burn more coal again.

Projected fossil fuel CO2 emissions – Global Carbon Project

So, this year’s task at COP23 is even more vital, setting the scene for the 2018 ‘facilitative dialogue’ process, which offers a key opportunity to deliver on the Paris Agreement commitment to collectively reach zero emissions around mid-century.

To play our part, I have represented CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) research at five side-events at COP23 so far, and there is still more to do later in the week.

The globe at the UN climate talks

‘Side-events’ are the way the official UN-COP process allows national delegations and country or regional level research teams to access information from a wide range of sources. We believe that showcasing detailed scenarios which make it clear we have all the technical solutions plus a clear understanding of how to overcome the barriers offers a vital tool to support delegates to increase the ambition of their national commitments.

Following my opening presentation at the Energie2050 pavilion, I went on to run the next one in collaboration with the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). GEN’s Executive Director, Kosha Joubert, asked me to chair their COP23 side-event, and to deliver a session profiling CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research, as this clearly demonstrates the necessary transition is possible in a long industrialised country.

In addition to sharing the key ZCB scenario and the new Making it Happen toolkit, I also profiled the work of local groups, in areas such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Yorkshire, who are using ZCB tools to help them demonstrate real leadership in pioneering how we can deliver the shift demanded by the Paris Agreement.

For my third event, I was invited to both chair and present at an event hosted by the official UK Pavilion located in CO23’s the Bonn Zone. Arranged by Oliver Maurice, a director of the International National Trusts Organisation, the event explored how heritage can help society understand the shift ahead and how we can visualise a new future.

Our next event was designed to ensure the work we offer in Bonn is accessible to a wider cross section of active citizens, including those who do not have access to the official Bonn Zone area.

To do this, CAT collaborated with the Nordic Folkecentre for Renewable Energy, International National Trusts Organisation and the Global Ecovillage Network to run a ‘special event’ in a very ecological church hall deep in the centre of Bonn. Together we presented an innovative array of inspiring and proven regenerative solutions which can help deliver the Paris Agreement.

A key element was exploring way of revitalising natural ecological systems which hold incredible potential to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, whilst also fostering resilient local communities and supporting increased biodiversity.

This second week opened with a role chairing a Welsh Government event, back in the UK Pavilion, exploring the leadership shown by Wales, delivered by Prys Davies from the Department for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

L-R: Prys Davies, Rita Singh and Paul Allen

As well as highlighting the leadership emerging at governmental level, such as the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, the event also profiled grassroots leadership shown by real life practical projects such as the Size of Wales project. This brings everyone in Wales together to help protect an area of tropical forest twice the size of Wales as part of a national response to climate change. ‘An area the size of Wales’ has been frequently used to measure the rate of forest destruction – through Size of Wales they are turning that negative use of the country’s size on its head!

Again and again, I can see the new leadership emerging, gaining both voice and traction around the COP process. Active local citizens ran a very well attended public education event in the park outside the Bonn Zone – with a massive queue of people waiting to explore it. More than 50 civil society groups and active citizen-leaders have just released a Climate Damages Declaration – calling on countries to agree on a two-year work plan to develop adequate and predictable sources of revenue for loss and damage finance, including a Climate Damages Tax.

As the week progresses I hope the action from the official delegates and negotiators can keep up with the grassroots leadership – by breaking through the unhelpful old patterns and setting the scene for a 1.5°C-compatible pathway.