En Route to Paris: Getting to an agreement to catalyze our economies’ transition toward decarbonization

Guest blog post by Hugo Séguin, Cérium Fellow and Senior Consultant, Copticom – Strategy and Public Relations.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.
Climate issues have been at the heart of negotiations for over two decades now. It has been a long, difficult journey, rife with harsh disappointments. And yet, paradoxically, we can all agree on the essentials.
There is consensus on the urgency to act, on the goal to achieve (to keep the temperature rise below two degrees Celsius), on the importance to protect the most vulnerable countries from climate change, and on the need to decarbonize our economies and phase out fossil fuels, which constitute the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.
It is now time to distribute the work and the responsibilities. And again, therein lies the rub.
Most signs point to the signing of the Paris agreement. The two biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, China and the United States, are working together and have finally committed to decarbonization. Last July, the G-7 leaders set the goal of decarbonizing the world’s economy by the end of the century.
But the Paris agreement is bound to be imperfect. The planet will not be saved in Paris; however, the summit will send a strong political message: the whole world is committed to the transition, and there is no turning back. Now is the time for us all to roll up our sleeves.
Of course, these negotiations are only one of the fronts of the fight against climate change. In the real world, we are still experiencing many setbacks. The second front in this battle is that of technological change and markets; backed by substantial financial flows and increasingly favorable public policies, they spur the transition to renewable energies. Renewable energies such as solar and wind power are already widely available, and are competing with polluting fossil fuels.

Indeed, investors are increasingly turning away from fossil fuels. The Rockefeller Foundation’s decision to completely divest from coal and tar sands was one of the most powerful announcements of the year. With this decision, the Rockefeller family?who owes its fortune to the exploitation of oil?joined some 180 other investment funds in their commitment to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energies.
The third front in this battle is the sphere of public policy and collective decisions, at all levels of governance, from rural communities to megacities and national states. The world is not waiting for the Paris agreement in order to take action. Some 60 jurisdictions around the world have put a price on carbon. Soon, 54% of global emissions will be subject to an economic penalty. The revenue generated by this penalty will be largely reinvested into green economy, renewable energy sources, and electric and public transportation, which will in turn boost the transition.
On the fourth front of the battle is civil society. Bustling with activity, it is increasingly taking charge of climate issues. In Canada and the United States, communities are organizing efficiently and successfully against large pipeline projects, putting a spoke in the wheel of tar oil production. More and more, citizens are demanding concrete action from their leaders, and they are willing to spring into action if need be.
laudato-siFinally, the fifth front is one that has emerged just recently, with the publication of Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Laudato Si. In it, the Pope calls all religious and spiritual leaders to action, opening up a whole new front?one born of ethics and morals. The benefits this may have on the fight against climate change has definite potential to surprise.
That being said, despite all efforts, the climate situation continues to deteriorate. If we accept that the Paris agreement will necessarily be imperfect, it is up to all of us to turn the situation around. We must act in all spheres upon which we have an influence, both at individual and collective levels.
Like a swarm of bees defending themselves however they can, each acting without waiting for orders from above, we are all called to help accelerate the transition to a carbon-free economy and society.

The Paris agreement will be the catalyst for action throughout the world. It will show us the way, but it is up to each and every one of us to get the job done.

This blog is part of the En Route to Paris series. In preparation for the Conference of the Parties (COP-21) taking place in Paris this December, we created a series that showcases Canada-wide initiatives promoting a low-carbon economy. The En Route to Paris series posts will expose the views of experts who collaborate with us in our initiatives focused on ‘Energy and the Economy.’ Our goal is to support initiatives geared towards transforming the discourse on climate to illustrate all the benefits of sustainable development.
Click here to view other posts in the series