In retrospect: Last 48hrs of COP

We are sharing this blog piece in retrospect, written by CAN's Leadership Development Programme Fellow in South Africa, Neoka Naidoo, during the last hours of COP. 

As we enter the last 48 hours of negotiations, I wanted to focus today’s post on some of the people and solutions that have inspired me on this journey through COP21. 

1) Bringing down fossil fuels 

The day before I left for COP21 I had the privilege of watching Naomi Klein’s documentary  “This Changes Everything“. I must admit I have seen my fair share of documentaries, and for some reason they motivate me to try and do my best at my endeavours. I watched many people work together to make changes in their communities the best way they could. One of these inspiring people was Crystal Laymann from the Beaver Cree Nation, who is standing up against the tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada.

Her community mobilized and fought against the destruction of their entrusted land. The tar sands are not only devastating for the environment, but of course also increases the amount of fossil fuels available to burn when we should be moving towards renewable energy. 

Neoka with Crystal Laymann

 2) The climate effects on vulnerable Kenyan farmers

Neoka with Kisilu Musaya (1)

Kisilu Musaya is a young farmer from the east of Kenya who is here in Paris. He made a conscious choice to change his farming practices after experiencing a huge amount of variation of weather and subsequent crop failure. With determination, he started a voluntary learning space within his community to share ideas, and plans to maximize the next crop after a drought. The community decided to plant drought resistant crops and using mulching techniques to stop evaporation from the soil.

Unfortunately, despite all that planning came yet more uncertainty, with the biggest flood they had ever seen. Paw paw trees that had taken five years to grow were obliterated in one night. As Kisilu said after a screening of ‘Kisilu Climate Diaries’, a documentary that followed his struggle over four years, “climate change has no privacy, so neither do I”. As he says, he is just one of many that are going through these drastic unpredictable events that threaten people’s very livelihoods and dignity. I found his story inspiring because of the innovation and resilience that he and his community have shown in the face of such terrible odds.

3) Renewable energy: the change that is necessary 

Neoka with Costa Rican head of delegation

I accidentally met the Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture and Environment yesterday. To date, Costa Rica has been able to use 100% renewable energy for 255 days of this year. Sceptics suggest that renewable energy cannot yet meet all of our energy needs, and yet with breakthroughs in battery storage and the cost per kilowatt from solar now cheaper than coal in some countries, this is questionable. Costa Rica proves the power of a just transition that many countries are going to have to accelerate if we are to hold to a 1.5 degree or even 2 degree future temperature rise.

 4) People, not politicians, must and will have the final word

As much as the UNFCCC is about the formal negotiations in which the diplomats, politicians and business are the principal actors, it is the energy in grassroots social movements that will be key to holding these leaders accountable for their decisions.

While this agreement is being negotiated, the variation in weather patterns is driving citizens (as well as progressive governments) to act now. The COP negotiations has another side to it that has produced an unintended consequence. Change is happening all around us, within our climate, within our communities, and within us all. It is the actions of social movements happening over the next few days outside of the negotiations in Paris, as well as the sit-in yesterday by civil society actors in the corridors themselves, that are critical to keeping pressure on the leaders over these last 48 hours in order to secure a better agreement.

In Paris this Saturday there will be mobilisations. The people will have the last word.