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COP21 Update – Monday, December 7

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When the Plenary (the full group of delegate-members and country representatives) met this morning they looked rested and ready to go. The COP 21 president reminded us that the international political response to climate change began with the 1992 adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), then to the Kyoto agreement 20 years ago, and succeeding meetings in Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Doha, Warsaw, and Lima.  He announced that for the next phase of this two-week process he has set up an open group called the Paris Committee, which will be shown on screens throughout the buildings. The document has to be approved on Thursday to meet the expected schedule. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the gathering, calling climate change the defining issue of our time. National leaders have assured him they would remove roadblocks, and he feels the support of the half a million people who took to streets last week, as well as Pope Francis and other religious leaders. “We must heed the call,” he said, and “developed countries must lead the way. The  clock is ticking toward climate catastrophe. The world is looking to you for results. Seven billion people want to know you have their interests at heart and those of their children.” He quoted children who have asked him to save them, and told us to be united by common purpose and common sense.

Quang Li of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that he has 27 years of accumulated data and five major assessments. “Science has the solutions. IPCC can deliver the knowledge.” Other UN leaders said we are closing in on a moment of historical import. Fail and we fail future generations and our own planet. One said we should reward France for its courage with an ambitious agreement. After all, city leaders have made dramatic pledges for carbon reductions. Big companies are divesting from fossil fuels.

And one favorite comment was – “What keeps me up at night are seven sets of eyes from the next seven generations asking what I did to fix this problem. What WE did.”  The most moving remark came from the Prime Minister of a small island nation whose whole country will be wiped out by a rise in sea levels. He said, “We MUST address this whale living in our lagoon.”