COP21 – The birth of humanity

IMG_0188Here are some thoughts from Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journalist, writer and Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Watch board, on the historical climate agreement announced on December 12 at Le Bourget in Paris. I was honored to join Jean-Louis and Corinne Lepage to speak at the Conference on Youth (COY) that preceded the climate talks to present the Declaration of Rights of Humankind and its importance to youth and future generations. FRENCH VERSION

COP21 – The birth of humanity

The memory of the media will keep this joyful scene at Le Bourget when the announcement of the agreement at the COP21 was made. Since then, objections, criticism and analysis of its shortcomings abound. They were inevitable and many are warranted.

But the most important when it comes to the future of humanity could not be rational. The collective emotion, even fleeting, gave the world images of what has inspired us to come together. In this digital era, we will see these images again and again, so as no to forget that what unites us is ultimately more powerful then what divides us.

To meet this challenge, a snap of fingers will not be sufficient. It will take decades of effort by activists, governments, scientists, associations, artists and others. But most of all, it will be for each new generation to discover the world in which it lives.

This moment of unanimity gave existence to humanity, beyond nations, beliefs or interests. We felt for a few minutes how this little flame, nascent, fragile, still wavering, was for us and our children so infinitely precious.

The emotion of this final between negotiators exhausted and radiant is already listed heritage. 

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

 

 

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

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Voici quelques réflexions de Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journaliste, écrivain et membre du conseil d’administration de Human Rights Watch, sur l’accord sur le climat annoncé le 12 Décembre au Bourget à Paris. Avec Jean-Louis et Corinne Lepage nous avons présenté la Déclaration des droits de l’Humanité durant la Conférence sur la Jeunesse (Conference on Youth – COY) qui a précédé les négociations sur le climat. ENGLISH VERSION

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

La mémoire des médias gardera cette scène de liesse au Bourget dès l’annonce de l’accord climatique à la COP21. Depuis les objections, critiques et analyses de ses insuffisances ne manquent pas. Elles étaient inévitables et beaucoup sont fondées.

Mais le plus important quand il s’agit de l’avenir de l’humanité ne pouvait pas être que rationnel. L’émotion collective, même fugace a offert au monde, les images de ce qui nous rend tous solidaires. Grâce au numérique, nous les reverrons encore et encore, pour que personne ne puisse oublier que ce qui nous lie est plus impératif que ce qui nous divise.

Pour transformer cet essai, il ne suffira pas, comme au rugby d’un coup de pied magique. Il faudra, des décennies durant, les efforts des militants, des gouvernants, des savants, des associations, des artistes. Mais, plus que tout de chaque nouvelle génération découvrant le monde dans lequel elle va devoir vivre.

Ce moment d’unanimité a donné existence à l’humanité, au-delà des nations, des croyances, des intérêts. On a senti, pendant quelques minutes combien cette petite flamme naissante, fragile, encore vacillante, nous était pour nous et nos enfants si infiniment précieuse.

L’émotion de ce final entre négociateurs épuisés et rayonnants s’est déjà inscrite patrimoine de l’humanité.

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

COP21: more than expected, short of what’s needed

After over 20 years of climate talks, 195 countries reached a “universal, fair, dynamic and binding agreement” to “save the planet” by keeping global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees. The mood was euphoric and some delegates were in tears after the three sleepless nights that concluded ParisClimat2015. Having followed the preparations of this global forum, I was impressed by the efforts of the city of Paris, the French authorities and particularly by the personal engagement of the French President for an ambitious and historic outcome.

1.5 degrees target

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1.5 degrees target

I am proud that Canada, after a decade of obstruction and denial under the Harper administration, has come out in favor of a 1.5 degree objective under the leadership of newly-elected Justin Trudeau. Staying “well below 2 degrees” is now the stated target of the world community and Canada is back as a constructive force on the world scene. This leadership will be needed to if we are to turn this lofty objective into something meaningful in terms of climate action.

“Aspirational” Objective

The 1.5 degree goal reflects calls of small island states, climate scientists and civil society but the new ambitions do not yet translate into commensurate actions that would even have a remote chance of meeting the original so-called “safe” target of 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 – which would require much faster reductions in green-house-gases and methods of taking back some of the carbon that has already been emitted.

Growing science and reality gap 

Scientists have been warning that there is a time lag between the moment when carbon is released and the resulting temperature increase. This means that on top of the 0.9 degrees of warming that we are already experiencing, there is an extra 0.6 degrees that is already pre-programmed for the future – Dr. Thomas Frölicher, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has produced some interesting work in this area. For these reasons, in time we will reach the 1.5 degree target and beyond as we continue to burn carbon.

On track for 3 degrees and more

Commitments by member states for COP21 put us on the 3 degree or more path. Well above the 1.5 degree goal. It is therefore urgent to transform this new target into meaningful policy, to change business models and make sure that we all change our behaviors – something that is far from achieved and which implies much deeper emission cuts then was is currently planned.

Timing is critical

Delegates and politicians still think that climate change is a slow, gradual and linear process. This is not supported by science. In fact, the process is not-linear and there is now a real risk of hitting tipping points that could accelerate climate disruptions with catastrophic consequences. This is why the 2020 entry into force and the 5-year reviews that would start in 2025 are disappointing.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

All countries will have to participate in the carbon reductions but rich countries must help to finance this transition in the developing world by contributing a minimum of $100 billion per year starting in 2020 – a figure that will be revised upwards in 2025. The good news is that new powerhouses like China and South Korea will contribute to this effort. It is also encouraging that countries like India will adopt a low-carbon path for their development, something that was far from achieved just a few days ago.

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Wind Energy Tree at COP21 in Paris

The end of the fossil fuel era

One message from the COP is  that the good days of the fossil fuel era are behind us. Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased-out and we will move towards a price on carbon to speed up the transition to a clean energy economy.

Just the beginning

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of COP21 on November 30th, this agreement is just the beginning of a process, echoing warnings from British Climate Ambassador, Sir David King, that carbon reduction targets must be reviewed regularly to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. From where we stand today and despite decades of work, it sure seems that we are still at ground zero.

The Declaration of Humankind at ParisClimat2015

Given the threat to humanity from climate change, French President Francois Hollande mandated former environmental minister Corinne Lepage with developing a Declaration of Rights and Obligations of Humankind to build-on and complement the 1948 Paris Declaration of Human Rights.

For mankind to organize its survival, peace and dignity, civil society must carry the Declaration and become a catalyst for support across sectors and with the wider public for its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016.

On December 9, from 9 to 11am at the COP21 French Pavilion in Le Bourget, the french presidency will be holding a side-event hosted by Corinne Lepage and with Scott Teare (Secretary-General of the World Scout Movement), Olivier De Schutter (IPES Food), Yolanda Kakabadse Navaro (WWF international) and other guests to present the initiative, its importance and the way forward.

UNFCCC badge required for entry. 

Additional Information:

Declaration LINK

Background LINK

Huffington Post Article LINK

The full project team includes: Ahmed ALAMI, Marie-Odile BERTELLA-GEOFFROY, Valérie CABANES, Francois DAMERVAL, Hubert DELZANGLES, Emilie GAILLARD, Christian HUGLO, Nicolas IMBERT, Adam KONIUSZEWSKI, Jean-Marc LAVIEILLE, Catherine LE BRIS, Bettina LAVILLE, Jérémy RIFKIN and Mathieu WEMAERE. 

 

 

Migrants, Refugees and the Promise of Diversity

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In the current migration crisis, people are fleeing to escape disaster, violence, poverty and hunger in  numbers unknown since World War II. But their desperate search for a better life is not always met with understanding and compassion. Hungary has set up a four meter-high barbwire fence along its Serbian border, Donald Trump is calling Mexican immigrants dangerous criminals, and Australia has implemented the world’s harshest policy by turning back boats of asylum-seekers, or forcing them to detainee centers on distant Pacific Islands and making sure they will never enter the country.

In the face of such hostility, it is refreshing to find a book with a different narrative. One where a country that promotes multiculturalism and social cohesion can enjoy the immense benefits of a more diverse society, where migrants truly become agents of progress and development. This was certainly our experience when my family immigrated to Montreal (Canada) in the early 1970s to escape the communist regime in Poland. Today still, Montreal is one of the most multi-ethnic and multicultural cities in the world – a vibrant platform for culture, education and business innovation.

An Unlikely War Hero

diversity_0“The Promise of Diversity” by John Hartwell Williams and John Bond, tells the unlikely story of Jerzy Zubryzcki (1920-2009), a Polish intellectual turned cadet officer in the Polish Army when the Second World War broke. Forced to surrender to the German forces, Zubrzycki escaped imprisonment thanks to a Jewish shopkeeper who may have saved his life. He served with distinction in the Polish Army, the Polish underground resistance and with the British  forces. Thanks to his good English, which he learnt at the Krakow YMCA, he was selected to join a top secret elite team that was tasked by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”, he underwent intense training in parachuting, explosives, sabotage, intelligence work and extreme survival skills. He even became an expert in the art of silent killing. In a “James Bond”-like adventure, he brought a captured V2 rocket from Poland to Britain, providing crucial intelligence to the allied forces.

Championing Diversity and Multiculturalism

Unable to return to Poland after the war, he became a refugee and decided to study sociology at the London School of Economics. He then joined the Australian National University where he became Professor of Sociology. Having experienced the horrors of Nazi occupation, he dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the integration of Australia’s increasing ethnic diversity. Australia, whose population was 7.4 million at the end of the war, received more then 2 million Europeans in the following two decades. Today still, it is home to one of the largest Greek communities outside Greece (particularly around Melbourne). Later came waves of refugees from Vietnam.

Thanks to his distinguished war record and contacts in the upper echelons of British society, he was able to access and influence the closed circles of Australian government, and successive Prime Ministers, helping them realize that the ethnic diversity is not a liability but an asset and that by enabling these values we enrich society as a whole. Through his influence he managed to “steer Australia towards multiculturalist settlement policies” (The Australian) for which he as been credited as the “father of Australian multiculturalism”.

The Stolen Generation Apology

Zubrzycki also helped in initiatives towards reconciling Australia’s Aboriginal population  with the wider community, initiatives which caught international attention in 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led a national apology to the Aboriginal community. His moving address can be viewed here:

As Secretary of the Australian Institute of Polish Affairs, John Williams developed a friendship with Zubrzyzcki, which led him to start writing this biography. John Bond, an author who has helped several Australian public figures write their memoirs, completed the book and is now organizing a Polish translation and promoting the Zubrzycki story in Poland.

John Bond is no stranger to diversity and multiculturalism. Since 1969, he has been a member of “Initiatives of Change” in Australia, the Swiss-based organization that facilitated the German-French reconciliation process following the Second World War. John was elected Secretary of the “National Sorry Day Committee” whose work led to the apology from the Australian government. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian community.

The book provides a wonderful account of how Zubrzycki’s early life experience of being rescued by a Jewish family shaped his belief in the value of diversity and turned him into a  champion of multiculturalism.

If Zubrzycki’s approach to multiculturalism were more widely understood, many of the troubles with migration and asylum seekers could be avoided. But given the unfortunate turn that policies towards foreigners are taking around the world, now more then ever, the Zubrzycki story is worth spreading.

It is high-time to dust-off the historical heroes of the Polish diaspora whose expertise and achievements have been recognized and admired by the world

Related Links:

Ordering “The Promise of Diversity” LINK

Jerzy Zubrzycki Biography in Polish

Transcript of ABC Interview with Jerzy Zubrzycki

Jerzy Zubrzycki Obituary

Une stratégie maritime pour le 21ème siècle

photo-4Le premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, a dévoilé une stratégie maritime ambitieuse pour la province qui façonnera le transport et la logistique de l’expédition outre-Atlantique pour le Nord-Est de l’Amérique au 21e siècle. Montréal pourrait devenir la porte d’entrée maritime pour lier un marché américain (Nord-Est) de 135 millions de personnes d’avec la plus grande économie du monde, la zone Euro et ses $18,000 milliards. Cette annonce suit la nouvelle d’Octobre 2014 d’un accord de libre-échange (AECG) entre le Canada et l’Union Européenne qui donnera un accès préférentiel à ces marchés, possiblement dès 2016.

Les années de gloire

montrealsummer-026Dès 1860 et pendant un siècle, Montréal était la vraie métropole du Canada, principalement grâce à son rôle de plaque tournante du transport du pays avec son grand centre portuaire et ferroviaire. En 1923, Montréal était encore le plus grand port céréalier du monde. Certains des silos à grains datant de cette période sont encore visibles, mais Montréal se classe aujourd’hui 97ème à l’échelle mondiale en tonnage, avec seulement un quart du volume qui transite par New York (26ème).

Positionné pour l’avenir

La voie maritime du Saint-Laurent et des Grands Lacs représente le plus long système de navigation profonde du monde et s’étend sur 3,700 km, au cœur du continent nord-américain. Cette situation géographique favorable signifie que l’expédition par Montréal fournit le plus direct, rapide et donc aussi le moins cher. Ceci, combiné avec une logistique plus efficace – un temps de transit de fret de 24 heures à Montréal contre jusqu’à 5 jours par New York – donne à la “Belle Province” un avantage qui pourrait aider Montréal à retrouver sa position de plaque tournante maritime en Amérique du Nord.

Moins cher et plus propre

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyAvec les plus grands navires transportant jusqu’à 600,000 tonnes de marchandises, le transport maritime est le plus efficace. Il se compare favorablement au train et au transport routier au niveau des couts, mais aussi en termes de réduction de la pollution. Son empreinte carbone est 3 fois plus basse que par train et 33 fois plus basse que par camion!

La sécurité d’abord

Les risques du transport routier et la catastrophe ferroviaire de 2013 du Lac Mégantic qui a fait 42 victimes font de la sécurité une préoccupation majeure. Même si le transport maritime a un bon dossier de sécurité, la stratégie maritime reconnait l’importance des préparations aux catastrophes et prévoit le développement d’un centre d’expertise des écosystèmes marins aux iles de la Madeleine.

Science et innovation

Compte tenu des opportunités liées à la croissance des activités océaniques à l’échelle mondiale, il y a un besoin urgent de recherches, d’innovation et de partage des connaissances. La mise en place du Réseau Maritime du Québec agira comme un catalyseur pour mobiliser les structures existantes et améliorer les échanges, en particulier entre le Québec et la France (qui possède le deuxième plus grand territoire marin du monde).

Protection de la biodiversité et tourisme

Reconnaissant l’exceptionnelle beauté et la biodiversité de la voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, la stratégie appelle à la création de zones marines protégées équivalent à au moins 10% du territoire marin. Ceux-ci, ainsi que l’amélioration des infrastructures à différents points le long du fleuve visent à stimuler le tourisme de croisière qui est déjà en forte croissance et qui a attiré 350,000 personnes en 2014 et prévu d’atteindre 400,000 cette année.

Propulsant le Québec au 21e siècle

La stratégie maritime de $9 milliards de Philippe Couillard et les 30,000 emplois qu’elle espère créer est comparable en ampleur aux grands projets de la Baie James de Robert Bourassa des années 1970 qui ont coutés quelque 20 milliards de dollars plusieurs décennies a être complétés. Aujourd’hui, cet héritage de Bourassa donne à la Province une énergie bas-carbone et peu couteuse qui fait que les Québécois ont la plus faible empreinte carbone du pays (9,7 tonnes d’équivalent CO2 par habitant en 2012 contre une moyenne de 20,1 tonnes pour les Canadiens).

Fait intéressant, 43,5% des émissions de carbone au Québec proviennent du secteur des transports qui utilise l’essence pour alimenter des voitures et des camions peu efficaces. Compte tenu de son accès à une électricité propre et fiable, le Québec pourrait devenir un leader de l’électrification des transports pour les véhicules de tourisme. A son tour, la stratégie maritime pourrait permettre une réduction importance de l’expédition par la route avec de nouvelles réductions de carbone, tout en stimulant le commerce et la compétitivité de la province.

Un message pour ParisClimat2015

Réconcilier l’économie et l’environnement sur ​​la base de connaissances scientifiques solides pour la prospérité des Québécois au 21e siècle – un message urgent et inspirant que le Premier ministre Couillard et le Maire de Montréal Denis Coderre pourrons transmettre durant la Conférence sur le climat de Paris en Décembre. Cette aventure dure depuis déjà 40 ans dans la « Belle Province » et la stratégie maritime est son dernier chapitre.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical: a climate game changer?

Rarely has a papal announcement received so much interest and controversy even before its release. On June 18, the long-awaited environmental encyclical of Pope Francis – the highest form of papal teaching – will be released to the 5,000 Bishops of the Catholic Church with a message to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.

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This promises to be of great significance for several reasons:

1) Part of a long process at the Vatican

While the environmental focus of the encyclical was inspired by the 2014 papal visit to Tacloban, a city in the Philippines devastated by the Haiyan hurricane, the interest of the Vatican for environmental matters started much earlier. In 2002 already, John Paul II released his “Declaration on Environmental Ethics”, raising concerns about the degradation of natural resources and the pollution of water, land and air. Pope Benedict in turn, credited for being the first “Green Pope”, said that: “respect for humans and for nature are one and the same”. He installed solar panels and turned the Vatican into the first carbon neutral-state. So the interest of Pope Francis results from a 15-year period of growing interest for the relationship between humanity and nature during which the message of the Vatican was developed and refined.

2) A holistic and universal message

The key points of the encyclical will extend beyond the narrowly defined “environmental sphere” to emphasize harmony with God, with nature and with other human beings. By addressing questions of poverty, inequality and hunger, in a world of plenty where one-third of the food goes to waste while 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger, Pope Francis aims to replace apathy and indifference with global solidarity. In this manner, he can reframe the climate science debate into a moral and ethical imperative that is relevant to all.

By bridging science and religion, Pope Francis can provide a universal and non-denominational message that resonates with teachings across faiths. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, all agree on the moral need for humans to act as stewards and protectors of the Earth and to care for the most vulnerable.

3) Strategic timing for the message

The June 18 release will allow Pope Francis several opportunities to address key audiences including President Obama, the US Congress and the UN General Assembly during the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals that will run until 2030 – all during the month of September, sufficiently ahead of the December Climate Summit in Paris to mobilize the public and world leaders ahead of the conference.

4) A unique personality to overcome the North-South divide

Ever since the Rio 1992 Earth Summit, there has been a divide between developed countries, largely responsible for the bulk of carbon pollution, and Global South countries, the frontline victims of climate change impacts. This is why the move by the leading economies to push the “green economy agenda” onto poor nations has been received with great suspicion by developing countries that see this as another attempt at economic imperialism at their expense. Pope Francis, who selected his name after St Francis of Assisi, a man of peace and poverty, is largely perceived as the Pope of the Global South. No one is better positioned to defend the interests of developing nations and ensuring they do not end up on the short-end of any climate agreement. Only Pope Francis has the moral authority to bridge this great divide and allow a historic reconciliation capable of aligning all interests for the benefit of humanity and future generations.