Posted by Chloe Hampson, Manager of Fit for the Future Network:
Day two and I’m definitely getting into the COP groove and under the skin of what it’s all about . The initial shock has subsided slightly, but I do still feel like there’s such an enormous amount going on here that I’m just flicking through TV channels. It’s a bit like a Russian doll – fascinating talks within talks within talks. Not so good if you suffer from #FOMO, which I do.
The day has had a real air of excitement to it as it was the official ‘opening’ of COP22 which meant all the big wigs came into town. There were people being interviewed and filmed all over the conference and security guards constantly pushing me aside to make way for VIPs. The King of Morocco hosted a lunch for ‘only’ 1,500 delegates and I unfortunately missed Francois Hollande by a whisker as he did a walk round the Green Pavilion (or perhaps not unfortunate as I probably wouldn’t have played it cool, I love a celeb).
Today has also included some really fantastic talks. Somehow I managed to wangle my way into the Low Emission Solutions conference which was meant to be just for regional and local leaders and was invite only. The panel I watched were discussing sustainable building products and each putting the case forward for why their product (cement, wood, plastic, clay) were the best products to build with and how policy and bureaucracy needs to speed up in accordance with the rate of innovation. The ‘plastic guy’ had developed a solution which took rubbish out of the ocean and turned it into a building product used in places in need of temporary or medium-term housing – such as refugee camps and disaster zones. This was my first moment of the day when I realised how blinkered I am with regards to climate change and work within such a small bubble in the UK.
Over to the British Embassy this afternoon to speak at INTO’s side event ‘Climate change: what it means for natural and cultural heritage and the cultures of the world’. I gave the UK’s point of view (NT case studies plus examples from Fit for the Future Network members) but yet another moment when I realise how much larger the issue is than I have considered before. As well as an overview from OIiver Maurice, director of INTO, the other speakers spoke about the impact climate change is having on their island communities – Cayman Islands is an average of 7 metres above sea level and at serious risk of going underwater if they don’t protect their mangroves, in French Polynesia 0.05% of their country is land (the rest is ocean, roughly the same size as Europe), which the population are so connected to leaving for them ‘just isn’t an option’. Elsewhere communities are already being forced to migrate as a result of rising sea levels or war caused by climate change, such as the Syrian refugees. With all this in mind, the impact of climate change in the UK seems inconsequential when you realise for others it’s a matter of survival.
The final big event was ‘100% renewable energy for 1.5 degrees’ which had a stellar line-up. More humbling presentations from the President of the Marshall Islands and an activist from Sumba Island in Indonesia followed by a range of companies and government officials who are really sticking their necks out by setting ambitious targets for renewables. Ikea are well on their way to hitting 100% renewable energy, currently at 71% (hoping to hit 80% soon after their latest wind farm is finished) and it was music to my ears when Barry Parkin from Mars said getting their company to be 100% RE ‘just makes business sense’. Yes Barry!! So great to see large, successful corporates demonstrating that investing in renewable energy is the shrewd thing to do.