Saturday, December 12 – We have an agreement

Today was my travel day back to the United States. It was also the day that the final draft of the Paris Agreement was to be released — and the day thousands of climate activists had vowed to flood the streets of Paris in defiance of a ban on demonstrations by the French government — both happening around noon.  With my flight from Paris to New York leaving at 10:30 a.m., I was in the air for nine hours, plus an additional six hours due to changes in time zone – putting me out of communication for a crucial 15 hours.

Lots of legroom in business class

Lots of legroom in business class

Fortunately I was able to upgrade to business class for the long flight, which meant I could actually sleep a few hours after staying up very late packing,  But by the time I landed in New York at 8 p.m. Paris time, 2 p.m. local time, I was desperate for information.  My friends on social media were only too happy to supply it.  The negotiators at COP21 had reached an agreement — by most accounts a good one.  The French government at the last minute had issued a permit to climate activists.  My feed was flooded with stories and analysis about the historic Paris Agreement, my email was overflowing with reactions from NGO groups, and my friends were posting photos and videos from the day’s events.


The photos and videos from the demonstrations organized by and others are amazing, and remind me of the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City.  I am so glad that the French government finally came to its senses and allowed people to express themselves.  Perhaps they had no choice, as literally tens of thousands of activists were in the streets, and there would be no way to arrest even a small percentage.  Perhaps this chain of events shows people like Naomi Klein know more about activism than I do.  When she urged people to take to the streets in mass numbers, they did, and they won.  I was now sorry that I couldn’t get an extra day at Place to B, but then I’m also glad to be home.

My Paris flight landed 45 minutes late in New York, giving me only half an hour to go through customs, collect my luggage and recheck it, get to the other side of the airport, go back through security, and find my gate.  I got there two minutes before the plane was to take off, but it was already gone.  It took me awhile to rouse up someone at an American Airlines counter to rebook me, and when I did they were incredibly rude.  Air travel has become extremely stressful and unpleasant.  On the other hand, the three-hour wait for the next flight gave me time to get a good dinner and catch up on all the COP 21 news and reactions.  Here is some of what I found.

Paris Agreement

UNFCCC – Final agreement

UNFCCC – Press release

Video – Fabius bangs gavel on COP21

President Obama – Video statement

White House  – Press release

Ban Ki Moon – Statement

Saturday actions – Video – Photos

Citizens Voice – Video

Greenpeace – Video

Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben – Facebook live

News stories 

The New York Times – Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris, by Coral Davenport

The Washington Post – 196 countries approve history climate agreement, by Joby Warrick and Chris Mooney

Politico – The one word that almost sank the climate talks, by Andrew Restuccia

Think Progress – In Historic Paris Climate Deal, World Unanimously Agrees To Not Burn Most Fossil Fuels, by Joe Romm

Mother Jones – Breaking: World Leaders Just Agreed to a Landmark Deal to Fight Global Warming, by Tim McDonnell and James West

Guardian – Paris climate deal: nearly 200 nations sign in end of fossil fuel era, by Suzanne Goldenberg et al

Al Jazeera – World leaders make history with climate deal in Paris

BBC – COP21 climate change summit reaches deal in Paris

Carbon Brief – Analysis: The Final Paris climate deal


Sierra Club – Sierra Club on the Paris Climate Agreement: “A Turning Point For Humanity”

Citizens Climate Lobby – With Paris agreement adopted, climate action begins in earnest

James Hansen – James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’

Bill McKibben – World leaders adopt 1.5 C goal — and we’re damn well going to hold them to it

Climate Action Network –  Civil society responds as final Paris Climate Agreement released

International Council for Science – Top scientists weigh in on current draft of Paris climate agreement

The Conversation – Historic Paris climate pact reached: Experts react

After 22 hours of travel, I am happy to be home.

After 22 hours of travel, I am happy to be home.

Wednesday, December 2 – CCEN launch, Eiffel Tower

I woke up this morning feeling pretty awful.  I’ve had migraines all week, and today’s was bad.  I had hoped to make it to a 10 a.m. presentation by the Healthy Climate Project, a workstream within the Citizens Climate Engagement Network, itself a project of Citizens Climate Lobby and Citizens Climate Education which seeks to engage citizen input into the intergovernmental climate negotiating process.  Healthy Climate Project would be discussing what a healthy climate should look like and how we can get there — but I wasn’t able to get there due to a crippling migraine that only got better with a long breakfast, medication, and shower.  Thank goodness my doctor had gotten the insurance company to pay for extra prescription Imitrex, which is the only thing that helps these headaches.  At the rate I am going through it since coming to Paris, I may run out.

Sarabeth Brockley, global strategy advisor for Citizens Climate Engagement Network, speaks at its launch.

Sarabeth Brockley, global strategy advisor for Citizens Climate Engagement Network, speaks at its launch.

For the afternoon I had two choices: I could go to Naomi Klein’s Leap Manifesto, which was pulling in hundreds of people but somehow still had seats, or to the launch of Citizens Climate Engagement Network.  I chose the latter for three reasons: one, because the Leap Manifesto was centered mainly on Canada; two, because it started earlier than CCEN and I was still dragging; and three, because Joe Robertson, the global strategies director for Citizens Climate Lobby, really wanted everyone to come to the launch of CCEN.  Since I am co-leader of the CCL chapter in Columbus, I felt that if there was one CCL event I needed to attend, it was this.  But for those interested in the Leap Manifesto, you can find more information at Democracy NowHuffington Post, and Guardian, and you can read the 15 Demands and sign the manifesto here.

I did make it to the CCEN launch.  The event ran from 1 until 3:30 p.m. and gave me a chance to connect with more of the CCL people in Paris.  Here is what it included:

  • Review of finalized Governance Strategy for the CCEN.
  • Review of the state of play in global negotiations.
  • Review of perspectives on carbon pricing principles, and strategies to use those principles to build value in any economic environment.
  • Participatory working session among attendees.
  • Insights from partners around the world.
  • Announcement of first organizations and agencies to join the Advisory Coalition.
  • Report from Citizens’ Voice team and first days of COP21 Workstreams.
  • Climate poetry, ethics discussion, and sharing of goals for 2016.

Several of the speakers stood out:

  • Joe Robertson, CCL’s director of global strategy, explained what Citizens Climate Engagement Network is and what it does.
  • Sarabeth Brockley, CCEN’s global strategy advisor who also works at the United Nations as a policy analyst for the sustainable development goals, gave us an outline of negotiations.
  • Peter Joseph of the CCL Marin County chapter, explained how pricing carbon can turn the economy from incentivizing all the wrong things to incentivizing the right ones.
  • Jerome Chladek, a marine biologist from Germany, explained the little-known role of oceans in regulating the climate and how our oceans are in trouble.
  • Peter Fiekowsky explained the Healthy Climate Project, so even though I didn’t make it to the event in the morning, I still got some information.
  • Claire Richer talked about Citizens Voice, a video news site for COP 21 to which many of the people in the room were contributing.
  • Several of the CCEN interns spoke including Isatis Citron, Morgan Wood, and Stephen Stoddard spoke.
  • And finally the event wrapped up with readings by three amazing poets talking about climate justice and the unequal effects of climate change on their families.  Their recitation at first felt like a slap in the face, but as they spoke, I came to realize the true human injustices that climate change entails.

Mindy Ahler and Paul Thompson of the Citizens Voice team streamed the entire CCEN launch live, and you can see their video here.  The volume is a little low at times.  You can also see just the three poets here.  You can also see my video of the event, which is of higher quality but unfortunately does not include the poets – my video camera battery died just before they came on.  You can also read a CCL blog post by Sarabeth Brockley with more information about the event and the poets.

After the CCEN launch, I made plans with several team members to cover panels at the Climate Generations space tomorrow, which is Oceans Day.  Then I went out walking in the neighborhood, which was the beautiful Bastille section of Paris.  There were lots of shops and restaurants, but what I needed at the moment was a place to buy some supplies that I had forgotten to pack.  I looked for a grocery store for about 45 minutes before thinking to check it on google.  It turned out there were several within a few blocks — they were just not well marked, perhaps to maintain the historic flavor of the neighborhood.  Once in the store I found what I needed, then looked for something to eat.  I found a small restaurant serving a fixed price meal with an entree (which in France is the appetizer — the entree to the meal), a main dish called a plat, and a dessert.

The meal gave me a chance to catch up on all the email from the CAN listservs and all the news coming out of the climate conference.  It also gave me a chance to simply rest.  I still was not feeling well, and as a consequence had not been able to contribute to Citizens Voice with much other than some social media posts and tweets.


After a leisurely dinner, I decided that if nothing else in Paris, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, and I had read that it would host a special light show during COP 21.  So I mapped out how to get there and studied the metro routes.  It looked like I would have to take three separate trains to get there from where I was, including one regional train, which as I had found out yesterday going to the COP 21 conference costs more than the internal city metro ride.  I was up for it.  At each stop I had to figure out where to go to catch the right train and get on it going the right way.  But I did it, and never did I feel unsafe traveling by myself even though it was closing in on 9 p.m.

The Eiffel Tower and its light show did not disappoint.  The tower is breathtaking — and huge.  There were no crowds by that time of night, although there was the ever-present police patrol.  I walked all around the area and underneath the tower.  I can see why it was considered an engineering marvel when it was built for the World’s Fair in 1889, and still is today.  The detail in the lattice work is incredible.  The four legs it rests on are huge, and underneath its belly hangs a large ball.  It has two sets of elevators, one to take you to restaurants and shops on the equivalent of the 17th floor, and one to take you to the top, which is the equivalent of about 81 stories.  You can also take the stairs.

I did not go up the tower, but I did take two videos of the light show, one from right below and one from across the Seine.  I also walked along the bridge across the Seine where there were two long rows of plaques discussing climate change, and watched the riverboats full of tourists cruising up and down.  I got a snack at a food stand across from the tower, then reversed the metro trip to head back to Place to B hostel.  All in all, especially given how I had been feeling, it was a worthwhile day.