Climate Action Now! reached Geneva, Switzerland earlier this week for the finale of the weeklong Climate Action Forum. The tradeshow serves as the capstone to a week of conferences, receptions, and workshops, all designed to get the climate discourse moving by laying the groundwork for the forthcoming Paris Accord, which will need nearly unanimous support for it to hold to its December, 2015 deadline.
The air is overcast and chilly. The rain and wind showers could have been on the few conference sessions during the day. It would have seemed a wise move to stay inside or stay under a parka — not that you would have seen any middle-aged man huddled under the trees. Or, you know, anybody. Almost everyone, and I mean everyone, was near-bar-close, floating back and forth to the conference hall between sessions, meeting a handful of colleagues, maybe slipping off to grab a bite.
As I write this on Friday evening, it is still being negotiated. That is to say, the votes that make a serious commitment to stay within the Paris agreement deadline — 50 percent by 2025, 60 percent by 2030 — are still very much in play.
There are reasons why this action is so critical. To begin with, the push to stay within the Paris accord deadline is one of the most tangible reasons that the world is beginning to see the urgency of the climate crisis. In February, the IMF declared that the world would need to stop using fossil fuels within a decade to prevent catastrophe.
More essential, however, is the condition of the money. The share of the world’s fossil fuel, water, and fish wealth being pumped into the fossil fuel industry is staggering, and growing, despite the negative effect that it has on the health of millions of people.
For the climate movement, the money battle is a critical test. Under the aggressive tax-supported emissions regulations, China will have to cut its production and import quotas for coal over the next five years. To do that, they need billions in investment, and hundreds of billions in projects financing — in the form of Chinese loans, investment capital, and equity.
We will have to act fast.
Right now, China is in the throes of major economic reforms. Rising energy costs could well derail those reforms. China has a long history of delayed green investments. As a result, if climate reform in China continues to stall, a major investment surge for natural gas-fired power plants and hydraulic fracturing could easily happen. This would be disastrous for the climate in the long run.
Green technologies don’t only offer solutions to the climate crisis. They are vital to economic development. China and other emerging economies urgently need to develop new technologies for natural gas and for renewable energy.
Even if some countries do not participate in the Paris accord, and no U.S. is signatory to the accord (President Trump has repeatedly said he would be against a carbon tax for his state and could try to torpedo the tax by making it impossible for U.S. companies to sell to other countries), neither the states nor countries have the political will to stand in the way of the move to the accord.
Most likely, people will need to galvanize dramatically in order to get the decisions necessary to move the climate conversation forward. The trust and responsibility to move forward is too important to leave to others.
At the end of our trade show, we looked up at the pale grey cloudless sky. It was a distant twilight. The sky above was still but the clouds were falling. In that twilight world of the weather, it was not too late to keep the planet green.