Monday, November 30 – Opening Day of COP 21

Members of Climate Action Network watch the opening of COP 21.

Members of Climate Action Network watch the opening of COP 21.

Today was a lot calmer than yesterday but no less busy.  It was the opening day of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known for short as COP21.  Because of all the security measures, Le Bourget, the converted airport north of the Paris city center where COP21 is taking place, was closed to the public.  So I went with several members of the Citizens Climate Lobby delegation to the hub for the Climate Action Network, or CAN, a network of organizations from around the world working on climate change.  The CAN hub is about a 10-minute walk from my hostel at Place to B, but my phone got confused at an intersection where several streets came together.  Eventually I found it, and several of us congregated in two rooms to watch the ceremonies, which were being livestreamed on the Internet.

After the so-called “family photo” of all the visiting world leaders, more than 150 country presidents, prime ministers, and other heads of state were scheduled to speak at the Leaders Event starting at noon.  Even though each leader was only given three minutes to speak, there were so many of them that speeches ran in two rooms simultaneously and still went on into the evening.

President Obama speaks at COP 21.

President Obama speaks at COP 21.

President Obama spoke about 12:45 and gave what I thought was an excellent speech.  He called the Paris climate conference a “turning point … the moment we finally determined we would save our planet.” “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” Obama said.  He talked about his recent trip to Alaska and called for an ambitious and transparent agreement.  He talked about how this is life or death for island nations and said he was meeting with their leaders tomorrow. He also mentioned the multibillion-dollar investment fund in clean energy research and development to be launched by Bill Gates and others today.

You can see video of Obama’s speech here and read statements by all the world leaders here.

My CCL colleague Chuck Lynd leads the Global Climate March in Columbus.

My CCL colleague Chuck Lynd leads the Global Climate March in Columbus.

While I was listening to the various leaders speak, I was also paging through my social media accounts and saw that my CCL colleague Chuck Lynd had pulled off quite a march for climate in Columbus. As I was trying to avoid arrest at Place de la Republique in Paris, Chuck and others had gotten over 100 people to come out as part of the Global Climate March organized by  I was amazed because before I had left, only a handful of people were signed up.  In less than a week, Chuck got the word out to environmental advocates across Central Ohio, and they turned out in droves, resulting in a great photo in the Columbus Dispatch.  That made my heart sing.

See video of the Columbus march from Carolyn Harding and photos from David Roseman via the Sierra Club Central Ohio Group.

On the frustrating side, the keys on my iPad stopped working.  I had planned to live tweet the Leaders Event, and even posted that I would on my Facebook page. but was unable to.  This was a cause for some panic, as I had not brought a laptop to Paris but was relying on the iPad to do the heavy lifting.  I was worried it had crashed even though it was only six months old.  Perhaps the blog posts and photos from yesterday had worked it too hard.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sent out a query through the CAN-talk listserv asking if anyone had a laptop I could borrow.  Most people recommended that I take the iPad to an Apple store in Paris, which I finally decided to do.  One was about a mile away, which gave me my first chance to truly walk around the city.  Once I got to the Apple store, it took awhile to figure out the system for getting some help, but when I finally did, the technician simply told me to call Apple support.  Well, I could have done that from the CAN hub!  But unfortunately I did not buy international minutes from Verizon.

Then I noticed that the operating system for the iPad needed to be updated.  I prayed that would solve the problem and pressed the button.  It was an entire new install of the IOS operating system and took a long time to work. After that, I sat at the store playing with the keys again for awhile.  Eventually I decided the iPad was indeed fixed, though I considered buying a new laptop in France anyway. Posting blogs and processing photos is so much easier from a laptop, and I will not travel to an event like this again without one.  But not only is the electrical outlet on French laptops different, the keyboard is different — it is not a QWERTY keyboard but AZERTY.  So I decided not to.

Members of the Citizens Climate Lobby delegation meet in Paris.

Members of the Citizens Climate Lobby delegation meet in Paris.

Finally tonight I ended up at the dinner and meeting for Citizens Climate Lobby.  Both took place at apartments that CCL members had rented out for the conference through Air B&B.  I’ve never used Air B&B, but after seeing their apartments, I decided to try it next time I am traveling internationally.  Their setup looked much more comfortable than the hostel, which is basically a dormitory, and they have access to full kitchens so they can cook their own food.  This is cheaper than buying every meal out as I have to do.

The highlight of the CCL meeting was hearing from Joe Robertson, the global strategy director, about the launch today of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.  CCL’s entire platform is carbon pricing, specifically a proposal called carbon fee and dividend that would tax carbon at the source of extraction and return all proceeds to American households.  There is a lot of talk nationally about a carbon tax, but a formal discussion of pricing carbon was taken off the agenda for COP 21 in October.  Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said at the time that countries had too many different carbon pricing schemes for them to be reconciled into one document.

Even so, the launch of the CPLC on the first day of COP 21 put carbon pricing front and center in the conference. Consisting of 15 national governments (including Canada, Germany, and France), five subnational governments (Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and California), and more than 60 businesses (including BP, Enel, and Shell), the CPLC has a goal of adding carbon pricing to all national strategies by 2020 — only five years away!  And they just may be able to do it.  At the launch was a powerhouse of leaders: World Bank President Jim Kim, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Joe saw the entire thing inside the Blue Zone.

CCL has two blog posts about the launch of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Forum, one by Peter Joseph, leader of the Marin County Chapter, and one by Jessica Langerman, a volunteer from Massachusetts.

CCL National Conference

Last month I traveled to Washington, DC, for the 2015 meeting of Citizens Climate Lobby, for which I am a co-leader of the Columbus chapter.  The conference was absolutely inspiring.  The plenary speakers included:

  • Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist at Texas Tech and CCL board member
  • James Hansen, former director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies and CCL board member
  • Bob Perkowitz of ecoAmerica, a climate opinion survey and communications group

I met several people in person who I have become friends with through the Global Warming Fact of the Day group on Facebook.  I got to know several of the other leaders of CCL chapters in Ohio.  And most empowering, I got to meet with four different Ohio representatives, all Republicans, to talk about CCL’s proposal for carbon fee and dividend.

Although I have lobbied my state and federal legislators before with other groups, CCL has probably the most effective lobbying strategy I’ve experienced.  People are assigned to groups of five or six for each legislator meeting, and each person in the group gets a role.  I led the group meeting with my representative, Steve Stivers, OH-15, while for other meetings I did time keeping, told a personal story, explained the basics of the proposal, made the ask, or did follow-up.  Assigning each person in the group a role and knowing what your role was allowed you to concentrate on doing that one thing well while not stepping on the toes of others as they did their part.

After I got back, I sent a letter about the meeting to the Dispatch, which I was happy to see given prominent space in a Saturday paper.  Here is the text:

Carbon fee, dividend good for air, economy

Recently I joined a group of Ohioans who, along with 800 volunteers from Citizens Climate Lobby, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with more than 500 members of Congress. Our 13 volunteers from Columbus, Delaware, Springfield and Cincinnati met with aides for 16 of Ohio’s 18-member Senate and House delegation.

We were there to ask our members of Congress to consider a new proposal for addressing climate change: carbon fee and dividend. The proposal has three parts: first, place a steadily rising fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels, collected at the point of extraction and entry into the economy; second, return 100 percent of the fee equally to American households in the form of a monthly dividend check; and third, enact a border adjustment on goods coming in from countries that do not have a similar carbon fee to discourage U.S. companies from relocating jobs.

A study by the nonpartisan Regional Economic Modeling Inc. finds that by 2035, a carbon fee and dividend would provide $396 a month to a family of four, add 2.8 million jobs, increase gross domestic product by almost $1.4 trillion, lower carbon emissions by 52 percent and prevent 227,000 premature deaths. REMI also found that the Great Lakes region, which includes Ohio, would benefit more than any other in job creation, economic stimulus and cleaner air.

Most congressional offices we met with were Republican, and most of the aides we spoke with had not heard of carbon fee and dividend. Most started off cool to the proposal, but gradually warmed up as we explained its benefits. Everyone knows that something must be done to address climate change. The debate isn’t about the science but about finding a solution acceptable to everyone.

To find out more about carbon fee and dividend, visit



Columbus chapter

Citizens Climate Lobby

Letter to the editor

I rarely agree with anything George Will says in print, though in the 90s I used to like to read some of his columns about baseball.  But lately his opinion pieces have become almost offensive, especially when he writes about anything having to do with women or climate change.  Last week he wrote an especially heinous column about colleges and universities working to become more sustainable.  Without stopping to think, I dashed off a letter in response, then decided to send it in to the Dispatch.  To my surprise, they published it, on the Saturday page no less which allows letters to run a little longer.  Here is the text:

Concern for climate is rational

I respond to the April 18 Op-ed column “Colleges now worship at the shrine of ‘sustainability,’ ” by George F. Will.

Will needs to check in with his fellow conservatives, as well as the business community, and get the facts.

He could start with Calpers, the largest American public pension fund, which with 60 other institutional investors has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require oil and gas companies to publish detailed analyses of the risks posed by climate change to their business models.

He could then contact the 43 CEOs of international corporations who wrote urging world leaders to reach an ambitious agreement to fight climate change.

The heads of Dow Chemical, Unilever, Philips and Ericsson are among those who signed.

Next, he could call the Risky Business Project, which studies the economic risks of climate change in the United States. It is co-chaired by Hank Paulson, treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, and includes as board members the CEO of Cargill and former CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Will should look up carbon fee and dividend, a revenue-neutral, market-based proposal to address climate change supported by conservatives such as George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.

A study by the forecasting group Regional Economic Models, Inc. found it would create 2.3 million jobs.

Finally, Will needs to understand that the science of climate change is in fact settled, as 97 percent of climate scientists say it is real and caused by humans.

There is nothing wrong with colleges acting to preserve the environment for students that pay their tuition.

This is not a religious cult. It is common sense.


Grove City