People at climate change meetings ‘cannot care anymore’

Image copyright EPA Image caption Polizei put bars up on all streets leading to the Netherlands’ One Planet Expo When the Indian government held its first climate change conference in New Delhi in 2014,…

People at climate change meetings 'cannot care anymore'

Image copyright EPA Image caption Polizei put bars up on all streets leading to the Netherlands’ One Planet Expo

When the Indian government held its first climate change conference in New Delhi in 2014, there was a very important addition.

“1.5” – referring to atmospheric CO2 – was mandatory on all new corporate and government posters, flyers and signs.

Some broadcasters, too, were ordered to broadcast it and a special Climate Change Week was even created on Indian television.

It was the first to-date to make an explicit mention of the dangerous levels of climate change which were then thought to be around 0.8C.

The attempt to act was, by some accounts, a success. Those who attended said it was an instructive lesson in media and public relations – because those involved weren’t even talking about “dangerous” levels.

It was, as campaigners would later say, just a phrase – albeit very good one.

“There was a lot of confusion on whether it was an accurate message or a misleading one,” says Rob Geist, an emeritus professor at Princeton University.

The UN’s climate science panel has continued to say the CO2 concentration is the point of no return, for sure.

Prof Geist says he’d like to see “a state of climate justice in the UN accord in Paris from 2020 or 2030.”

Image copyright Google Image caption France has gone back to counting global warming, as it did in the 1990s

Even that time frame, however, would be missed by some scientists, who believe we are already in a new “planetary level” climate system.

Others, however, argue that there should be no conditions placed on how we measure global warming.

“We’re all saying different things and it’s like choosing between salt and sugar – you can’t do that,” says Amy Kleintop, a researcher from Columbia University.

Paris and The Hague

The 1.5 rules came out of need to reach a new global agreement at Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015, after years of acrimony between industrialized countries and a growing number of smaller developing nations like India.

The 1.5 was soon revised to 1.5C and then changed back again to 1.5C and then back again. The current figure is 1.2C.

“I think it’s the most effective global symbol we’ve ever had,” says Lee Copeland, chief executive of the One Planet Expo in The Hague, a Dutch exhibition centre where climate change issues are at the centre of its programme.

The Expo aims to “take action towards a truly sustainable future”.

But the exhibition and the COPs are three very different events. The Expo had several fairs, conferences and debates.

It was the highlight of that programme, attracting large numbers of delegates and officials, journalists and activists, as well as a large advertising budget.

The COP, on the other hand, lacked clout, of a scale comparable to Davos or WEF meetings. It was – as one insider from the Indian embassy put it – “a big surprise for everyone – me included”.

It was held at an isolated building in an airport development in canton Friesland, in the Netherlands.

‘The jungle to save the world’

Around 1,000 delegates, officials and journalists arrived to visit the COP in July 2016.

Some were resentful that the event had taken place at all. A senior official from the World Climate Forum said it “borders on being a drunken rum party”.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Dozens of civil society leaders waited with their placards and placards

The open-air negotiation chamber is plain, cobbled brick, with large planters on the sides.

Tents are built around the room in the autumn, but it is extremely hot all year round.

The negotiators come from around the world and the temperature is set at about 20C.

There are no windows in the room. The sun shines through the roof. Exhibitors line the sides and sit on the floor.

In many ways, it can be called the “last best hope of humanity”.

And 1.5 was brought in by the organisers on the belief that “when the papers are signed, this will represent the world saying you can’t take our children and grandchildren, your children’s grandchildren, anymore”.

“The world’s leaders are leaving this to the future generation,” says Nick Holland, who has worked with the conference for the last seven years.

“We have to demand that climate change no longer be ignored and to demand that governments listen.”

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