At COP21, the big-picture message is about political efforts to keep global warming to a 2° C, or even a 1.5°C rise, and how it’s important to keep the pressure on world leaders to find a deal to make this happen. I can’t help thinking that this level of reporting is bound to lead to disappointment. Even if a piece of paper is signed it will inevitably be the end result of horse-trading, pork-barrel, bull and other farmyard metaphors. What it won’t do is magically end climate change.
This is not to say that COP21 is a waste of time. There is movement at each conference, even though it can seem slower than a melting glacier. And there has been an encouraging development in the form of a focus on solutions rather than problems, moving away from grand target-setting strategy to on-the-ground tactics. There are hundreds of interesting ideas out there, as presented by the many corporations present in Paris to show what they can contribute to make the world a better place and, yes, make a profit.
ABB (a client of Off-Piste Radio Network), a large power and automation multi-national is one such corporation, with a big presence at COP21 as a partner of the “Solutions COP21” exhibition. Companies such as ABB are directing their energies towards sales of cleantech projects because they are a profitable part of their portfolio with a bright future, but what they need from Governments is a clearly defined legislative framework that allows them to plan investment and divestment; if a “polluter pays” carbon pricing deal is reached then technology responsible for high CO2 emissions becomes less profitable, making it easier for them direct efforts towards clean and energy-efficient solutions.
Some activist groups have reacted with cynicism to the involvement of big business in the climate change debate (why should one listen to companies that have been involved in polluting activities). But one organisation that has been successful in mobilising the general public, corporations and civil society under one banner is Solar Impulse, a pioneering project to send a solar-powered plane around the world in order to demonstrate the extraordinary potential of renewable and energy-efficient technologies (and another Off-Piste Radio client). In short, the message of Solar Impulse is that we can by existing technology we can dramatically reduce energy use and make renewables a much bigger part of the mix. This message has proved to be extremely powerful and has enabled Solar Impulse to bring together a wide array of Governments, NGOs and private companies under one umbrella organisation, Future Is Clean.
This is important because it is only through a consensus between these different groups that a sustainable, workable model for future development will be reached.