“Just keep it up. You’re doing the Lord’s work, and we’re going to win this thing together,” proclaimed a U.S. Senator in Paris during COP21. Ironic as it may be, these words were not those of a delegate in the COP21 negotiations nor those of a protestor in the streets of the French capitol. They were the words of Oklahoman Senator Jim Inhofe at a "counter-conference" for climate change deniers.
International climate change negotiations are a painfully slow process. Any observer present at COP21 could attest to that. The recently signed accord in Paris, decades in the making, took thirteen days of relentless deliberation among 195 countries, and even then was only signed at the last second — the evening on the day after the official end of the conference.
Knowing how sluggish these things can be, the conference organizers even preemptively booked the Le Bourget negotiation space for a week after the conference ended, just in case.
“This is a movement of the people; we should…” As the words left my mouth and observers took out their phones to film the young man speaking out against the corporate dominance of the environmental movement, two French military men had appeared by my side. Within moments, I felt my arms grabbed by the gendarmes as they hurriedly whisked me away from the cameras and toward a hidden room full of other protestors, pushed me against a concrete wall, and searched my body as men held their rifles feet away, watching me with deep suspicion.
50% renewable by 2030! What is it about California that they are able to set these targets and achieve them? Or is it simply because of the forward thinking people of Silicon Valley? They set a target for businesses to achieve 20% renewable by 2020 and they have already achieved 25%. It is at least partly due to Governor Jerry Brown, who has managed to mobilize the entire state into a frenzy about climate change and the need to start using renewable energy.
Something’s different about COP21. We can all feel it in the air — the sheer number of people, the various art installations dotting the city, the businesses and local governments that are here to show their support, and the romantic beauty of Paris also doesn’t hurt.