In his new book The Winning of the Carbon War, Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, chair of Carbon Tracker, climate-and-energy activist and author, chronicles the last two and half years in the battle for a sustainable future – culminating in the dramatic scenes at the Paris climate summit in December 2015. Here is an edited extract from his book.
Day Thirteen, Saturday 12th December: I make my way to Le Bourget once again, hopefully for the last time. I have a Eurostar back to London booked for this evening.
Outside my hotel, students are gathering for a demonstration 350.org has planned for today […]
I find a far-flung spot in the media centre, stock up with food and water, fire up my screens, and wait. I am surrounded by strangers, sitting amid more than 3,000 journalists. But this is where I am going to see the most actionI possibly can today. […]
Laurent Fabius calls the thousands to order and begins to speak: “Today we are close to the end of the process. For I firmly believe that we have reached an ambitious and balanced draft agreement which reflects the positions of the Parties.” […]
“The proposed draft agreement is differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding.”
Excellent. I picture international lawyers high-fiving all over the world. “It acknowledges the notion of “climate justice” and takes into account, for each issue, the countries’ differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances. It confirms our central, even vital objective of holding the increase in average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C.”
Many delegates now clap and cheer. […] He appeals to delegations to come together in compromise now. The text won’t please everyone, he says, but everyone needs to ask themselves whether they can realistically hope for more than the overall balance that is being offered. “[…]This agreement is necessary both for the world as a whole and for each of our countries.
“It will help island States, for example in the Pacific and the Caribbean, to protect themselves from the rising sea levels which are beginning to submerge their coasts. It will speed up the process of giving Africa access to the financial and technological means that are indispensable for the continent’s sustainable development. It will support Latin American countries, in particular to preserve their forests. It will support the countries that produce fossil fuels in their efforts towards technological and economic diversification. It will help us all to make the transition to resilient, low-carbon development based on sustainableways of life. For above and beyond the climate issues per se, this agreement will support major causes such as food production and security, public health, poverty reduction, essential rights and, lastly, peace.”
A peace treaty for our times, then. Just as President Hollande said on Day One.
[Fabius concludes by saying]: “One of you mentioned the other day a famous quote by Nelson Mandela, most suited to the occasion. ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ I would like to add a few more words, by the same hero. ‘None of us acting alone can achieve success.’ Success is within reach of all our hands working together. Together, in this room, you are going to decide on a historic agreement. The world is waiting with bated breath and is counting on us all.”
An eruption of applause.
Delegates standing everywhere.
I brush the tears from my eyes, and check Twitter. Pictures from the demonstration on the streets are streaming in. 15,000 people are evidently marching. “This is what thousands of people who want real solutions look like”, a 350.org tweet says. […]
Ban Ki-Moon follows Fabius, warning delegates not to risk ending up on the wrong side of history, trying to make it politically impossible for any government to wreck a deal now.
“The end is in sight. Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching.”
Then Francois Hollande.
This man and his team have played an absolute blinder, as we English like to say, though rarely of the French. “You choose for your country, your continent, and for the world. History is here. France calls on you to change the world, to agree the first universal climate agreement in history, that our planet may live a long time.”
This gets a standing ovation. And what happens next, do you think, dear reader?
I invite you to look away, have a think, and guess.
They break for lunch.
This is France, after all. […]
Responses to Fabius’s speech are flooding into my inbox now, in the form of hurried press releases and simple e-mail quotes to lists of journalists. Bill McKibben from the march. “This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”
From London, Anthony Hobley gives Carbon Tracker’s perspective. “A 1.5°C carbon budget means the fossil fuel era is well and truly over. There is absolutely no room for error. Fossil fuel companies must accept that they are an ex growth stock and urgently re-assess their business plans.[…] Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft: (this) “will provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy.”
I like the certainty bit. […]
Reading the cascade of comment and analysis from around the world, and chipping in some of my own on Twitter, time flies.
I suddenly notice that 3:45 has come and gone.
News comes that the restart has been delayed to 5:30. […]
Finally, the delegates start drifting back into the plenary hall.
I watch anxiously, trying to sense the mood.
Then I see Ban Ki-moon hugging Al Gore and Ségolène Royal, beaming.
The hall fills up.
The minutes pass, with much milling around, hand shaking, and taking of photos, selfies and otherwise.
But they don’t come to order.
Huddles of negotiators can be seen, talking to each other seemingly in urgent voices.
Surely there can’t be a problem, not now.
A rumour spreads that the hold up is over the words “shall” and “should” in a single sentence of the draft.
An hour has passed.
I have missed my Eurostar.
You can download or order a printed version of The Winning of The Carbon War’ at http://www.jeremyleggett.net/latestbook/