COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

IMG_0188

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

Explaining the Paris climate deal to young people

After over 20 years of negotiation, 195 countries reached a “universal, fair, dynamic and binding agreement” to “save the planet” by reducing carbon emissions to keep the rise of global average temperature “well below 2 degrees”. The mood was euphoric and some delegates were in tears after the three sleepless nights that helped conclude ParisClimat2015.

What does a target of well below 2 degrees mean? 

IMG_0271

In recent years, some have made fun of global warming saying that an extra 2 degrees in places like Moscow may not be a bad idea (especially in  wintertime). To better understand what this means we can think of the human body. At 36.7 degrees all is in order and you feel great. Bump it up by 2 degrees and you feel sick and can no longer function normally. The same applies to the climate. The rapid increase in world temperature that we have experienced in recent years has disrupted the climate, weakened ecosystems and is threatening many species.

The climate has always been changing. The real problem is that human-activity has accelerated the rate of change beyond the planet’s ability to adapt. 

For several years, world leaders and their negotiators had been focused on limiting global warming to 2 degrees – the so-called “safe” level below which dangerous climate change  would be avoided. But today already, after “only” 0.9 degrees of warming, we see a multiplication of weather-related disasters, an acceleration of glacier melt and sea-level rise that threatens small island states and coastal cities around the world.

As a result, the Canadian climate minister called for revising the target to 1.5 degrees, a level consistent with what leaders from the small island states and climate scientists had been asking. Staying “well below 2 degrees” is now the stated objective of the world community.

On track for 3 degrees and more

Despite the new and more ambitious target, the carbon reduction commitments of the various countries remain consistent with a warming of 3 degrees or more which implies a high risk of catastrophic climate change consequences.

A growing gap between science and policy 

Scientists have also been warning about the time lag between carbon emissions and the resulting temperature rise. This implies 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. This puts us on track for the 1.5 degree from the carbon that is already in the air today and means that we must stop entirely from releasing any new carbon as of now.

Timing is critical

Clearly this is an aspect that is not well understood by policy-makers who still see climate change as a slow, gradual and linear process. This is not supported by science and there is now a real risk of hitting tipping points that could accelerate climate disruptions with catastrophic consequences. This is why we must urgently translate this new target into meaningful policy, we have to transform business models and change behaviors – something that is far from achieved and which implies much deeper emission cuts and even to capture some of the carbon that was already emitted.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

All countries will have to participate in the carbon reductions and rich countries will help finance this transition in the developing world by contributing a minimum of $100 billion/year from 2020 – a figure that will be revised upwards in 2025. The good news is that recently emerged powerhouses including China and South Korea will chip in. 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.

IMG_0275

Wind Energy Tree at COP21 in Paris

The end of the fossil fuel era

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

This is just the beginning

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of COP21, this agreement is just the beginning of a long process. This  echoes 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. The negotiated agreement will come into force in 2020 and will be revised in 2025.

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

IMG_0271

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.

IMG_0275

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.

Searching for Endurance – Part 2

Part 2 of In Search for Endurance at COP21

Chamonix-based glaciologist Luc Moreau kindly agreed to speak after the screening of Luc Hardy’s “In Pursuit of Endurance” at the Rochexpo Naturelia fair in La-Roche-sur-Foron near Geneva. Chamonix, home to la “Mer de Glace” (sea of ice), the largest glacier in France and the winter vacation destination of choice for nature lovers, is at the forefront of climate change – warming 2 to 3 times faster then the global average.

Passionate about defending his playground, Luc made a provocative plea for action and I hereby summarize his most interesting perspective:

When the stewardess on an airplane explains how to use the oxygen mask she first says you should put yours first and only then that of your child. 

YES, let’s be selfish and we can then also save our children, give them fresh air and a climate they can live in!! and also then save others… If we don’t do it for ourselves then our children are doomed anyway. That is the only way forward. Selfishness!

We are so smart, all this science and knowledge and the only way we can find to save this environment that gives us life, air to breathe and water to drink is to be selfish. Only our selfishness can save us because that is the only thing we are really good at. We know how to do it, let’s be selfish now and let’s do it together…. and future generations will also benefit!!

Why slowly destroy the environment that we live? wildlife, plants, oceans, biodiversity, air, water… We can reverse this destruction if each and everyone does something and then a little something more. Carpooling, cycling, reducing and sorting waste, push for better regulation that taxes what destroy and supports what restores… We blame China? But China produced all the products that we love so much…

We cannot fix everything but we must show some direction, we must show that we care. Even if we sometimes make mistakes, we must change course, focus on what works and move forward. Just like in Aikido we do not try to counter evil, we deflect it and reverse this force to turn it into a positive.

So let’s be selfish together!! We have caused a global problem and we must therefore unite our forces globally to fix it together. Create a political party with all parties involved! Without labels but with all the smart people, their experience, philosophers and humanists, economists and financiers and why not a few community organizers with the spirit to do well for everyone!

Ernest Shackelton, if he were alive today, would give this leadership to steer humanity on the path to sustainability because he was a real leader – he was a real captain!

So, Luc (Moreau), who are you to give advice? 

What have I done? not much, carpooling, biking, public transport… it’s nothing! a drop in the ocean. But the ocean is made of individual drops!! And if we all do this then we will soon breathe more easily…

We are at our last crossroad, our last chance to change course. Let the spirit of Shackleton inspire our most selfish instincts to save ourselves …and our children too.

By Luc Moreau

 

In search of “Endurance” at COP21

As the Paris COP was resting following the release of its week one draft, Green Cross organized screenings of “In Pursuit of Endurance”, a documentary of the 2014 expedition by adventurer and financier Luc Hardy to commemorate the centennial of the cross-Antarctic voyage by British hero explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. When Shackleton’s vessel stalled, stuck in the polar ice, he went on an epic rescue mission that saved his crew from certain death.

Reaching New Audiences

On the sidelines of the climate talks, Green Cross organized parallel screenings of the film at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Naturelia fair in La-Roche-Sur-Foron (near Geneva) to raise awareness about climate change to audiences beyond the traditional climate negotiation communities.

Adam Koniuszewski, Bertrand Delapierre, Luc Hardy, Nicolas Imbert

Adam Koniuszewski, Bertrand Delapierre, Luc Hardy, Nicolas Imbert

This is also an objective for Luc Hardy and why he invites artists, athletes, the media and young people to join his trips and spread the word about the climate crisis but also about the beauty of the natural world. This message comes through in the film with images of 300,000 penguins playing in the snow and observing with interest the expedition crew.

Manchots

Sport and Adventure

There is also a close link with the world of sport, especially for those who love and want to protect the beauty and integrity of the natural world. The trip allowed Swiss-snowboard champion and Green Cross friend Geraldine Fasnacht to do just that with images of the first ever ride off the Zavodovski volcano on Sandwich Island. Let’s hope this inspiration also helps the Paris COP negotiators reach a first ever ambitious and binding climate agreement. Our ability to continue enjoying such adventures will largely depend on what happens in the coming days.

Human Rights in the Anthropocene, by William Becker

Idealism got a bad name somewhere along the way. Google on it and one of the definitions that pops up is “the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically.” The psychologist Carl Jung called it as bad an addiction as narcotics and alcohol — “the tendency of high-minded people to avoid facing the reality of evil,” as one Jungian put it.

True, it is difficult to remain idealistic in a world that produced Hitler, Pol Pot and ISIS. Idealism is less fashionable, less street-smart. There are advantages to cynicism. When we expect the worst, we are not disappointed when we get it. Cynicism is perverse evidence that a person must have standards, since he expects the world to fall short of them.

The debate about cynicism and idealism runs through our literature. Victorian novelist George Meredith noted that cynics “are only happy in making the world as barren for others as they have made it for themselves.” Oscar Wilde observed that a cynic “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” George Carlin believed you could “scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” Swiss essayist Alian de Botton agreed: “Cynics are — beneath it all — only idealists with awkwardly high standards.”

On the other hand, science fiction writer Glen Cook defends his lack of faith in humanity by arguing that “every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.” Russian poet Joseph Brodsky felt that “Life — the way it really is — is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.” The late Mike Royko, the Pulitzer price columnist in Chicago, wrote “Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what the heck is really going on.”

But without idealism, we would not have the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution. We would not have wedding vows, John Lennon songs, or a papal encyclical on stewardship of the environment. We would not have the United Nations Charter, the Earth Charter, the UN’s Millennium Development goals, or the UN’s sustainable development goals. We would dream too small, expect too little and chronically underachieve.

A cynic probably would argue that all of the pronouncements of the world’s idealists – the declarations, treaties and charters — are not worth the paper they’re printed on, that their idealism is rarely justified, their hopes are seldom fulfilled and their plans usually are not accomplished. But can anyone argue credibly that a world without ideals and idealism would be a better place? Idealism invokes our better angels. It reminds us of what we would be if we were all that we could be. It is our collective conscience and the hope with which we survive divine discomfort.

This all comes to mind because of a message from a good friend in Europe who has been involved in developing a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Humanity, a document commissioned by French President Francois Hollande. Hollande asked a former minister of environment in France, Corinne Lepage, to develop a statement for “a new stage in the field of human rights” for presentation at next month’s international climate conference in Paris.

lepage-2

Corinne Lepage and her project team giving the Rights of Humankind Declaration Report to French President Francois Hollande.

The result from Lepage and her team is not the first such declaration. It updates two others, both with their roots in crisis and in France. The first — the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen — was inspired in part by the American Revolution, written for the French Revolution and approved in 1789 by France’s National Constituent Assembly. The second is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in Paris in 1948 by the UN General Assembly in the wake of World War II.

The crisis that inspires the new Declaration is not a war against classes or between nations, but the war that mankind is waging against the Earth’s life support systems and the war that the generations alive today are waging against the generations yet to come.

The human rights expressed in the new Declaration include the ability to live in healthy and ecologically sustainable environments and to preserve the natural resources that humanity holds in common. With these rights come obligations, the Declaration says, including the duty to respect the rights of others and of all living species; to serve as guarantors of ecological balance and our natural and cultural heritage; to ensure that scientific and technical progress work for rather than against the well-being of humans and other species; and to think about the long-term consequences of our short-term actions.

The authors of the new Declaration definitely know “what the heck is really going on”. It was their knowledge and their determination not to turn away from it that demanded a new invocation of higher principles and ideals.

Consistent with France’s tradition as the birthplace of these declarations, President Hollande intends to introduce the new document next month when more than 190 nations meet for the international climate conference in Paris. Hollande will ask the UN General Assembly to formally approve the Declaration next year. In the meantime, the Declaration’s ambassadors including some 40 million Scouts, will spread the word.

PJW2115

Corinne Lepage, Nicolas Imbert and Adam Koniuszewski accompanied by Scout representatives from around the world

Of what use is such a document? Only a cynic would ask.

Readers can co-sign the Declaration at LINK. For more information, contact Adam Koniuszewski, who was a member of the Corinne Lepage project team, at adamkoniuszewski@me.com.

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.     

This article was written by William S. Becker, Executive Director of the US Presidential Climate Action Project and originally published in the Huffington Post: LINK

The website of the Declaration in French and English can be found here

Migrants, Refugees and the Promise of Diversity

2BAB59C000000578-0-image-a-1_1440575170499

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