Update from COP21: our Environmental Practices Adviser’s thoughts on day one

Keith Jones, Environmental Practices Adviser for the National Trust, gives his thoughts from the first day of the UN Climate Conference in Paris.

It was a fascinating, if a bit tiring, first day here at COP21 in Paris. My day was one of acclimatisation and finding where things where. Coffee sellers = check, travel pass = check, press rooms where groups of nations would be committing to stuff = check. Being here, I suppose, is like watching a football match in a huge stadium. You probably get a better view on the TV but nothing beats being here to feel, taste, share and absorb the atmosphere. Yes it does feel like a ‘moment’ but we have all been reminded not to look at this as a ‘make or break’ moment but as part of a process that will be ongoing far beyond Paris. But back to a football analogy. Yes to win a season you have to look at all the games but you still remember the key matches. This feels like one of them. (That’s enough football)…

An indigenous Canadian tribe at COP21.

A meeting of cultures at COP21. Here, an indigenous Canadian tribe whose culture is being directly impacted by climate change ©Keith Jones

I am here as part of the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) delegation. Our security passes state that we are here as ‘observers’ to bear witness, to form partnerships and even in our tiniest butterfly-wing-sort-of-way cajole for the recognition that culture, heritage and conservation have a big part to play for our future generations and that climate change is the single greatest threat to this.

From arrival today in the new hybrid buses, past the phalanx of EV cars and the snipers, the overall atmosphere was one of solutions. There was not much reminding of what climate change meant but there was an emphasis on the ‘possible’. On the INTO stand we had Canadian Indigenous Indians, Mongolian representatives, and African ministerial representatives amongst the nations represented. All with one thing in common: ‘finding a way’ to deal with the climate change threat. I asked a few ‘old hands’ at COPs what the feeling was like in Paris compared to the previous conferences and the response was ‘it feels like we are all working towards a solution’ rather than paying silly beggars with brinkmanship.

A delegate puts on his virtual reality headset to view a future world

Planet COP: where you can use virtual reality to view the world our children might be living in. ©Keith Jones

As well as the getting to know the site, I also popped into a few of the many observer sessions including the session chaired by Mary Robinson on funding for the most impacted nations (lots of ministers standing up to pledge funding), and was interviewed for Climate Change TV (RTCC). We won an award last year at Lima COP for our Hydro work from RTCC. The Kingdom of Netherlands site gave a good show on their overall approach to mitigation and the list went on of what was on the go. The big cheeses were in town and all seemed to be saying aspects around ‘future generations, once in a life time, have to do stuff now, moral obligation’ which were all good scene setters. Now lets see if thoughts turn to deeds in the next two weeks and then beyond. Later today I have a presentation at a UNESCO hosted session in the centre of Paris… I will be featuring a ‘roof gutter’ as my climate change indicator.  

More to come!

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