Report from COP21: A waste of future?

This article was originally published in Greenbiz on Monday, December 7, 2015. http://bit.ly/JyyQEe

maurice strongMaurice Strong, here in 1997, organised the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

“You must now act quickly to bring the climate convention and its protocols in line with what scientists are telling us — that carbon emission must be cut by at least 60 percent just to put the global warming trend on hold.”

If you believe this to be a quote by politicians or activists from the current COP21 event in Paris, you have been fooled.

Shockingly, these words were part of the closing remarks at the Rio Earth Summit, held in 1992. They were directed to us by Canadian Maurice Strong, who led the way as the first U.N. Environment Program Chief. Strong died last week — just days before the beginning of the landmark climate summit in Paris.

What remains a fact is that we certainly did not “act quickly.”

Twenty-three years have passed since the first climate summit in Rio de Janeiro and we still haven’t taken sufficient steps towards worldwide climate action as experts and leaders have advocated for since the early 1990s.

As I was leaving for Paris, I asked my 13-year-old son what he believed was happening at the climate negotiations.

He answered that he believed “many leaders were saying this and that — but then didn’t take action.” He quickly added, “Some might actually put action behind the nice words.” And we agreed that if not, it wouldn’t be only a waste of time and money, but a waste of a positive future for him and his generation — our children and grandchildren.

However, I am an optimist and now, more than ever, I am hoping for a strong outcome in Paris with a binding agreement setting concrete targets and timelines. Furthermore, I call on all leaders worldwide to fulfil their promises and take climate action. I call on all business leaders and the private sector to get involved and create environmentally sustainable strategies. And I call  on all citizens to not only hold their governments accountable, but also to influence decisions through responsible consumption patterns.

I conclude with another quote by Maurice Strong — still as accurate as 23 years ago, and an ambitious call to action to everyone around the world to answer the following question:

“Will this summit merely be a high point in our expressions of good intentions and enthusiasm and excitement, or will it really be the start of the process of fundamental change which we absolutely need?”

Some companies, organisations and countries have started the process of change – but we need to scale and bring in many more leaders.

My sense from the short time I have attended COP21 and the people I have talked with indicate that we are closer than ever to start the process of fundamental change to save the future of those we love. I hope that we are right.