Of all the luck.

In the fall of this year, NUVO received a missive from Jim Poyser — former managing editor of NUVO and current executive director of Earth Charter Indiana. Jim introduced us to another member of ECI, a woman named Lauren Kastner who was headed to Paris for what may go down as the most important climate conference of them all: COP21. The 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had a monumental task before them, as Lauren wrote for NUVO in November:

After negotiating for more than two decades, this year is critical for the world to get to a strong agreement to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a fair and effective way that every nation in the world agrees to. 

As the Conference's own website stated, COP21 "will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C." (cop21paris.org)

For some nations — such as the Marshall Islands — a 2-degree-Celsius-or-more mark means a death sentence. As the Island's Foreign Minister Tony de Brum told NPR during the talks, his country's rallying cry is "1.5 to stay alive," since rising sea levels are already swamping the shorelines.

Of course, reaching that agreement was vastly easier said than done.

Kastner provided us with a tremendous analogy to help even the most casual observer cut through the bureaucratic jargon attendant to these types of meetings and understand the magnitude of what representatives from across the globe were attempting:

The climate talks can really be distilled to three basic issues that can be understood using a dairy cow as an analogy for solving climate change.

Three farmers share one dairy cow. Farmer A is wealthy enough to buy a cow and has enjoyed the bounty of milk from the cow for many years. Farmer B has been saving money for many years and finally has enough to buy into the cow and is usually able to get milk whenever she needs it. Farmer C is not able to share the cost of the cow, but can buy a few pints of milk for himself each week. Unfortunately, the bucket that the farmers use to milk the cow each day has a hole in it and milk has been slowly leaking. The farmers realized that not only are they losing milk, but the hole in the bucket is getting bigger and they have no plan to fix it.

The farmers — with differing responsibilities and capabilities — must decide: Who fixes the leaky bucket? Who pays for the spilled milk? 

And: How do the farmers cope without having milk?

In much the same way, climate change negotiators from 190 countries must determine the amount of GHG emissions each country must reduce to mitigate future climate change; who pays to ensure that countries are equipped to adapt to the impacts of climate change happening right now; and how do the countries and populations most vulnerable to climate change receive compensation for the loss and damage to which they cannot adapt?

And, of course, another layer of difficulty enshrouded the proceedings: A little more than two weeks prior to the start of the conference, Paris was struck by a coordinated series of mass shootings and suicide bombings that killed 130 people. The terrorist group we'll refer to as "Daesh" took responsibility for the murders.

Against a backdrop of profound concern for the planet, coupled with the fears, dread and massive show of security that often follow acts of terror in the West, Lauren began posting her observations from the City of Lights beginning November 30, 2015.

DAY 1: High stakes climate negotiations open in Paris

DAY 2: Climate exposition opens to public in Paris

DAY 3: US youth actions in Paris call for clean energy, phase out fossil fuels

DAY 5: Human rights protections at risk in climate talksDAY 8: States step up to the climate challenge in midst of international climate talksDAY 9: U.S. lead climate negotiator targeted in Twitter campaign

DAY10: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces doubling of climate finance pledgeDAY 11: Black Lives Matter demonstration in Paris calls for climate justiceDAY 12: Nations of the world sign Paris Agreement on climate change


Recommended for you