COP 21: as it unfolds

Posted Monday November 30, 2015 by Mark

COP 21: as it unfolds

Monday 30th November kicks off the 21st annual Conference of Parties – that grand international climate conference where world leaders gather to debate how best to kick the can that bit further down the road.

Join Less Meat Less Heat as we report directly from COP 21 where we’re pushing the envelope for a safe climate.

We’ll keep you up to the minute with the inner workings, the dramas, the scuffles, and hopefully also the rays of hope that emerge from the conference that according to many is our last shot at staying below a two-degree increase….

Saturday 12th December

Paris, 20:06

The final text of the agreement is in, and it’s now been signed off on by world leaders to the sound of raucous applause.

Now that the hype of COP 21 is dying down, and the deal is sealed for another year, it’s time for the vivisection of the agreement to begin. The mainstream media thus far appears to be cheerleading, not analysing, much less interpreting what the agreement is likely to mean for us, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

Far from being the agreement that will catapult us into a new era of climate justice, the COP 21 agreement is weaker in many ways than the Copenhagen agreement of 2009 – that pitiful product of a process unanimously agreed to have been a debacle.

An agreement that makes no mention of the words “fossil fuel” – no mention of coal, oil or gas – and not a word on the livestock industry, palm oil, or any other industry driving the deforestation that’s stripping us of our our vital carbon sinks, is unlikely to take us very far. It certainly won’t bind us to any clear course of action that will steer us out of harm’s way.

And so it goes...

And so it goes…

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), had this to say about the final agreement: “Our survival is non-negotiable. But after all the hype about high ambition and the 1.5°C aspirational limit for global warming, the final version of the climate agreement is sentencing us to even more deaths and destruction.”

Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman concurred, commenting that every COP is a betrayal of our brothers and sisters on the front lines. (Listen to Amy’s comments over on the Less Meat Less Heat Twitter feed.)

Now it’s over, we’ll keep you posted on what we’re doing to combat climate change, and how you can join us in taking climatarian steps toward climate justice.

For now, over and out.

Friday 11th December

Paris, 08:57

What happens when you cannot adapt to rising sea levels?

What happens when communities are faced with irreversible damage due to climate change?

At COP 21 in Paris, youth leaders are recognizing that mitigation and adaptation may not be enough. They are calling upon world leaders to support a robust loss and damage mechanism in the final text of the COP21 Paris Agreement.

Kiribati delegate Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti called for the following items to be included in the final COP 21 agreement:

1) Loss and Damage must be a standalone Article 5 of the Paris Decision Text.
2) The Paris Agreement should include innovative finance and insurance mechanisms for the most vulnerable.
3) The Paris Agreement needs to explicitly recognize the issue of climate displacement.
4) The Warsaw International Mechanisms (WIM) needs permanent status beyond the current time-bound mandate that ends in 2016.

For more information, visit: www.sustainus.org/cop21/lossanddamages
Film credit: Benj Brooking
Producers: Mattea Mrkusic and Joning Lee
YOUNGO is the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). YOUNGO is not an organization, but made up of organizations and individuals who identify as youth.

Paris, 01:12

The latest draft of the COP 21 agreement is now out, and is a somewhat slimmer and less-bracketed version than its predecessor. Progress is being made.

Executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had this to say about the latest version: “The new draft COP 21 outcome text points towards an ambitious agreement.”

Executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiane Figueres provides an update on the state of play in negotiations, revealing the latest draft of the COP 21 agreenment.

Executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiane Figueres provides an update on the state of play in negotiations, revealing the latest draft of the COP 21 agreenment.

Less Meat Less Heat consider caution more apt than cheerleading for this stage in the game.

An ambitious agreement is arguably one that is legally binding, has mandatory emissions cuts, and pledges to keep warming to below 1.5C. The current draft contains no such ambitions.

Thursday 10th December

Paris, 19:30

Naomi Klein addressed civil society groups at COP 21 with her message that neoliberal trade policies such as the TPP and the TTIP are incompatible with solving our climate change predicament.

The politically charged author of Shock Doctrine – arguably one of the last decade’s must-read books on the connection between neoliberal ideology and human rights – has inspired many a climate campaigner with her recent book This Changes Everything.

But uncharacteristically for Klein, whose earlier work was disarmingly courageous and devastatingly thorough, her recent work and speech at COP 21 disappointingly ignores the cow in the room that’s sending us to a 6 degree increase.

Naomi Klein speaks on the incompatibility of neoliberal trade policies with a safe climate.

Naomi Klein speaks on the incompatibility of neoliberal trade policies with a safe climate.

The voices of climate migrants are rarely heard above the cacophony of xenophobic hysteria and 3-word electioneering slogans such as “stop the boats”, and sadly at COP 21 they’re not faring much better.

In a room full of seats, very few are occupied by the predominantly white, wealthy westerners whose lifestyles bear the burden of responsibility for the very problem the world’s most vulnerable people are fleeing.

It is imperative that we stay below a 1.5C increase if we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe, and the current political mood shows very little mercy.

The voices of climate migrants fall on deaf ears in a mostly empty room.

The voices of climate migrants fall on deaf ears in a mostly empty room.

Paris, 15:30

Far away from the negotiations where a few of the key drivers of climate change are tabled for discussion civil society groups are discussing some of the issues that aren’t on the COP 21 menu.

Global Forests spoke on the relationship between deforestation and rising emissions, although causal factors were raised by audience questions. In answer to the question “what is the number one driver of deforestation globally” the answer was very simple: beef. Our increasingly red meat-heavy standard western diets are driving the rapid increase of the livestock industry, responsible for the lion’s share of deforestation globally.

deforestation n beef

At least Global Forests are able to answer correctly when asked about the key driver of deforestation: beef.

Paris, 02:34

Now that COP 21 is in its final stages the world waits in eager anticipation (on the edge of your seat yet?) for the final agreement.

Meanwhile, the pragmatic among us are suspending faith, and looking hard at the evidence: are we likely to see any meaningful outcomes from COP 21 that will amount to emissions reductions and the chance of a safe climate? Not if so many of the important issues – such as livestock emissions – aren’t even on the table.

A quick browse of the latest version of the draft agreement provides a good indication of where we’re headed, now that COP 21 is on the home stretch.

And if you don’t have time to sift through a 29 page document in (mostly bracketed) legalese and then scratch your head wondering what it all actually means and how it applies to real-world action, here’s the Less Meat Less Heat summary of COP 21:

The agreement:

  • The ‘agreement’ has already been written; COP 21 is all about ‘world leaders’ showing up for upbeat speeches and photo ops, and then the bureaucrats (mostly folks you’ve never heard of, and never will) get down to the business of editing the document by quibbling in favour of their nationally determined mandate

The process:

  • Mostly delegates reiterating their own position statements over and over, with occasional pauses to express confusion over the process and make time for those valuable #whatthefuckisgoingon moments
  • Everything that has a chance of achieving anything goes in brackets (if it hasn’t been removed entirely), so it’s basically inapplicable
  • Everything that doesn’t go in brackets is also basically inapplicable, because it’s already been determined that none of this is legally binding – it’s just voluntary (read: optional)

The accountability:

  • There is none – nothing is legally binding, and there is no will, much less a process/procedure for holding any state accountable for their commitments
  • Even if the agreement were legally binding, states would either evade their commitments (the wealthy have a way of doing that generally – see tax dodgers for ample examples…), or cook their books (look no further than Australia’s example for this)

The future:

  • Nothing will change until we do things differently, and we can do things differently… so start thinking outside the box.

time-for-meeting

Wednesday 9th December

Paris, 17:45

Key driver of deforestation and climate change livestock agriculture is not getting much traction as a talking point, even among the NGOs representing civil society at COP 21. But one organisation – French NGO Defi Veggie – has courageously spoken out about the potential for dietary change to combat climate change and keep us below a 1.5C increase.

Defi Veggie: discussing diet change to combat climate change and keep us below a 1.5C increase.

Defi Veggie: discussing diet change to combat climate change and keep us below a 1.5C increase.

Meat Free Monday groups from all around the world also came together to share their success stories, including the emissions saved by the growing numbers of people globally embracing the climatarian ethic of reducing meat consumption and opting for low-footprint food.

Tuesday 8th December

Paris, 13:30

In making an important point it can help to display a sense of humour… Polar bears have long been the poster-kids of climate change, and are some of the first climate change refugees (although it’s unlikely there will ever be an international convention that obligates the world’s wealthy nations to provide a safe haven for them).

Climate change is set to become one of the key drivers of a major refugee crisis in years to come, and the COP 21 process currently presents neither a solution for the impending refugee crisis, nor one for staying below a 1.5C global temperature increase.

Polar bears: the first climate change refugees...

Polar bears: the first climate change refugees…

…and COP 21 demonstrates its commitment to self-aggrandizing branding, with COP 21-branded fruit… when will the spectacle end and the sincerity begin?

Paris, 09:30

Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti, delegate from Kiribati explained in interview with Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin the extent of climate damage in his country, a low-lying island nation that is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

People in Kiribati are being forced off their land thanks to rising sea levels, and many are likely to become displaced. Climate refugees are currently unaccounted for in law, and time is running out.

The western addiction to a fossil-fuelled lifestyle and hyperconsumption of consumer goods – in addition to a diet high in emissions-intensive red meat – is the greatest threat to low-lying island nations and the world’s chance of staying below a 1.5C increase.

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin, in solidarity with Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti, delegate from Kiribati: we're really up against it.

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin, in solidarity with  delegate from Kiribati: we’re really up against it.

Mr Bainteiti, known as Rae, commented on the stark difference between what COP 21 ought to be about, and what it has turned out to be most concerned with. “Climate change isn’t about capitalism; it’s about deciding on how much carbon emissions will make us safe,” he commented, going on to explain how he feels about going home to Kiribati without an agreement to stay below a 1.5C increase.

“Telling the young people like myself that COP 21 wasn’t a promise to keep us safe on our island, but it was about capitalism, politics. That’s what I personally feel about this COP 21.”

Rae came to COP 21 with the intention of achieving change by revealing truths about life for his people in a changing climate, but has become jaded with the process.

“I have a lot of questions; I have a lot of doubts. I feel that bringing the stories from Kiribati here – there’s no point,” Rae said.

“There’s no point coming with the stories when the process is not about listening to your stories, but it’s about how threatened they are from these deals on climate change.”

Rae expressed his disappointment in the COP 21 process, but also expressed his support for future delegates’ efforts. “I do really wish the best for the guys who will be attending COP 22,” he remarked, before commenting that “If our stories from the grassroots are not enough to convince the leaders to act, to make legally binding agreements, not voluntary, there’s nothing. It doesn’t make any difference. Already we are living the climate change realities.”

Direct experience of the effects of climate change brings with it a different attitude to that of climate campaigners fortunate enough to be relatively sheltered from the consequences – for now.

“Deep in my heart I’m really feeling scared,” Rae admitted.

Monday 7th December

Paris, 16:55

Climate change is one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss, and today’s forum asked some hard questions around how nature will cope with biodiversity loss.

The hardest question, however, came from the audience, not the panel. With livestock agriculture the biggest driver of biodiversity loss, and one of the key contributors to climate change, it seems odd that reducing demand for the products of the livestock industry isn’t on the table for discussion.

biodiversity loss

How will nature cope with biodiversity loss? With great difficulty, if we don’t reduce the impact of key driver of both biodiversity loss and climate change: the livestock industry.

Saturday 5th December

Paris, 23:12

It’s been a busy day for Less Meat Less Heat, meeting with the European Commission to lobby all 29 member countries with a voice of reason. That’s 29 more countries added to the list of nations lobbied to commit to staying below a 1.5C increase by factoring in livestock emissions and accepting the climatarian approach as a low-cost means of mitigation, buying time for other interventions and saving the bulk of the climate budget for transitioning to zero carbon energy.

Whether or not COP 21 tables livestock emissions as a serious talking point for negotiation, delegates are not going home without hearing the climatarian message.

After a hard day’s lobbying, Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin kicks back to enjoy a low-impact climatarian dinner and drinks with Eaternity CEO Manuel Klarmann, and filmmaker Kip Andersen of Cowspiracy notoriety. The voices of reason are growing in strength and number, and we’re proving there’s no sacrifice in adopting a climate-friendly lifestyle!

dinner n drinks

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin relaxes with a climatarian dinner and drinks with fellow climatarians with clout.

Paris, 13:00

While the general public are reduced to mere spectators of the COP 21 spectacle not everyone agrees that we the people should be sidelined while Big Business gets a seat at the table.

The Malaysian delegation has come out in defence of civil society by reminding the UNFCCC that there is no good reason for the exclusion of NGOs from the negotiation process.

don't exclude NGOs

Malaysian delegation defends civil society: there is no good reason to exclude NGOs from negotiations.

Saudi Arabia – dubbed a #COPblocker for its defensive stance on fossil energy production and inflexibility on climate targets – has come out swinging against reviewing the proposed 1.5C target.

The Middle Eastern petrostate faces economic consequences and resulting weakening of its geopolitical status if COP 21 commits to a safe temperature threshold. Who says climate change isn’t a political issue? It’s precisely politics that’s standing in the way of meaningful action.

Saudi COP-blocker

#COP-blockers Saudi Arabia blocking review of 1.5C target.

Friday 4th December

Paris, 19:00

Climate change creates conditions for the perfect storm in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

Liberian delegate to COP 21 Fester Saydee advised that one of the major issues facing Liberia at present is crop failure due to decreasing rainfall exacerbated by climate change. Farmers are going broke, and people are going hungry.

As a result, more and more people are moving towards jobs in the logging industry, which has now become one of the dominant sectors of the developing country’s economy. Unaware that deforestation from logging adversely affects the water cycle thus exacerbating drought and consequent crop failure, Liberians engage in the destructive practice out of sheer economic desperation.

Mr Saydee commented that for many Liberians there is no alternative without international support.

Liberians are not educated about climate change, according to Mr Saydee, who commented that such education is vital if people are to understand how changing patterns will continue to affect their livelihoods, and how they can adapt to their changing circumstances.

Meanwhile, what is a life and death issue for our brothers and sisters in the third world amounts largely to consumer choices for those of us fortunate enough to live in the wealthier nations. Foregoing a few luxuries seems fair game when presented with the reality of life in Liberia for those struggling with crop failure who cannot even imagine adopting a decadent western standard of living.

Paris, 18:00

Al Gore’s inspiring presentation missed a few key points that would make a major difference if addressed – key to this is that reducing meat consumption has the potential to drastically cut emissions at low cost and buy time for vital policy changes.

Asked why he missed the 800 pound gorilla (or cow?) in the room that’s sending us to 4C, Gore responded with “yeah, yeah, yeah; I’m a vegan.” Make of that what you will.

Al Gore's presentation at COP 21 makes no mention of agricultural emissions from livestock, or any related solutions. But that's ok, because Gore is vegan...

Al Gore’s presentation at COP 21 makes no mention of agricultural emissions from livestock, or any related solutions. But that’s ok, because Gore is vegan…

Paris, 17:00

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin was just interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now. We’ll link you to the footage as soon as it’s up!

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin with Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman.

Less Meat Less Heat CEO Mark Pershin with Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman.

Thursday 3rd December

Paris, 15:00

Carbon Tracker’s carbon budget is shown to be a misleading tool for analysing climate. The carbon budget only refers to CO2, not methane or any of the other greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

A ‘carbon budget’ that fails to account for methane emissions at minimum is of no use for understanding our real emissions ‘budget’, or the predicament we face.

Climatarian Al Gore's exceptional presentation skills wasted on narrow focus on fossil fuel emissions.

Climatarian Al Gore’s exceptional presentation skills wasted on narrow focus on fossil fuel emissions.

Al Gore, famously climatarian climate crusader still maintains a narrow focus on fossil fuel emissions in his advocacy. Gore is one of the few people who the mainstream media would be all over if he were to point out the elephant (or cow, or sheep…) in the COP 21 conference room.

The COP 21 team from Less Meat Less Heat have been scurrying around lobbying leaders from some of the world’s most vulnerable countries already reeling from the effects of climate change.

Less Meat Less Heat express solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable countries in their efforts to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees, significantly lower that the much-touted 2-degree target that spells disaster for much of the world. For the world’s most vulnerable, nothing less than a commitment to staying below a 1.5 degree increase can be considered a success.

Meanwhile, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has glibly credited COP 21 with a 7/10 chance of ‘success’, although unlike the Climate Vulnerability Forum, did not specify what ‘success’ would look like.

The former Labor Prime Minister indicated his relative optimism – as compared with the Copenhagen debacle in 2009 – regarding whether the 190 countries attending the COP 21 can reach a binding agreement to cur carbon emissions over the next fortnight.

“Copenhagen at this stage – we would have given ourselves about a three or four out of ten chance of success,” Rudd said, adding “I would give ourselves here in Paris about a six or seven out of ten prospect of success, which means there is still plenty of opportunity for everyone to screw up.”

No prizes for guessing who's in charge at COP 21...

No prizes for guessing who’s in charge at COP 21…

Wednesday 2nd December

Paris, 17:10

Apparently the USDA don’t know how to spell ‘agriculture’. Perhaps this offers a clue to how well they understand the emissions-intensive system of food production that is wreaking havoc for the climate?

USDA #namefail

USDA #namefail

Paris, 11:00

The Global Alliance of Agriculture is launched with great fanfare. But this alliance seeks to address the effects of climate on agriculture, and not the effects of agriculture on climate.

No mention was made of the impact of livestock on emissions, or on the western world’s excessive consumption of high-footprint red meat.

The 1.5 degree commitment demands discussion of all causal factors, but the elephant remains in the room unmentioned.

Theatrical launch of the Global Alliance of Agriculture - no mention of livestock emissions.

Theatrical launch of the Global Alliance of Agriculture – no mention of livestock emissions.


A newly released report from Carbon Market Watch emphasises widening the discussion on emissions abatement in the agricultural sector. 


Dr Katherine Watts from Carbon Market Watch pointed out that the agricultural sector could still do a great deal more to reduce its impact on the planet while still providing food security. “Changing consumption patterns so that we consume less meat will also be important to reduce direct emissions of greenhouse gases and also the area of land required for agriculture,” concluded Watts. 

Paris, 08:00

Agriculture is a topic on the table at COP 21, but mainly due to the impact of climate change on food security.

Discussion of the effects of agriculture on climate are limited to conversation around food waste and soil carbon – vitally important issues, but not getting to the core of the issue.

Note to all civil society groups and representatives: discussion of agriculture open to us to observe, not participate; one learns the hard way when one has contributions to offer that may add to the conversation.

discussion of agriculture

Discussing agriculture at COP 21: open for observation only, not participation.

Tuesday 1st December

Paris, 17:00

Low-lying island nations are on the front line of climate change absorbing the shocks here and now.

Climate crisis isn’t a future concern for nations like Kiribati – the waves are already lapping at the door. Kiribati provides an example for why temperature increase must be kept to below 1.5 degrees.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for the Environment Greg announced Australia’s commitment to ratifying the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Turnbull and Hunt also promised to donate “at least” $1bn in climate finance to the most vulnerable countries, primarily targeted at low-lying Pacific Island nations. This finance is to come out of the existing, albeit already diminished, aid budget.

“Some of the most vulnerable nations are our Pacific neighbours and we are helping them to build resilience through practical action and assistance. To this end, Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from our existing aid budget both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions,” said Mr Turnbull.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten dismissed the government’s commitment to climate finance as mere “accounting tricks” intended to shift money around within the foreign aid budget. With no new money committed, Shorten commented that “if the government is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul … it’s not really helping them at all; it’s no net change.”

Somalia, one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, presents at a forum on the multiplier effect of climate change for already existing crises. Very few participants turned up to listen, demonstrating a sad disregard for the world’s most vulnerable.

Few people present for Somalia's forum on how climate change affects a country already in crisis.

Few people present for Somalia’s forum on how climate change affects a country already in crisis.

Paris, 13:00

Will the conference be like the food – bland, single use and disposable?

Single-use disposable, bland: #irony or #metaphor?

COP 21 food: Single-use disposable, bland… #irony or #metaphor?

Monday 30th November

Paris, 19:00

The Climate Vulnerability Forum, a coalition of over 40 of the most vulnerable countries, meets to represent the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people. These are people who suffer the most from climate change, yet have contributed to it least.

The coalition of vulnerable country leaders has called for zero-emissions by mid century.

“We refuse to be the sacrifice of the international community in Paris. Anything that takes our survival off the table here is a red line. All parties have an obligation to act. Not doing so is a crime…”, said Anwar Hossain Manju, Hon. Minister of Environment of Bangladesh.

These most vulnerable countries are also those most interested in the impact of livestock emissions on climate, and the climatarian solution, according to the Less Meat Less Heat COP 21 lobby team. Failure to consider the impact of animal agriculture means failure to reach the zero-emissions by 2050 target.

The Climate Vulnerability Forum: demanding climate justice for the world's most vulnerable peoples.

The Climate Vulnerability Forum: demanding climate justice for the world’s most vulnerable peoples.

Paris, 14:00

Civil society representatives are safely tucked away from the main proceedings, permitted to watch the world leaders address plenary via video link-up only.

Should this be taken as an indication of civil society’s place in global climate agreements? Will there be a place for civil society in the final COP 21 agreement?

No room for civil society at the global leaders plenary - watching via video link-up.

No room for civil society at the global leaders plenary – watching via video link-up.

Plenary speakers from the US, China and Germany deliver compelling speeches, but can they back their words with actions?

China reveals plans for domestic CO2 emissions to peak by 2030, but make no mention of the climate impact of their growing beef habit, responsible for an increasing chunk of their overall emissions.

Germany have shown themselves to be leaders in renewable energy, but at 265% of World Health Organisation-suggested meat consumption, they are far from leading the way with a climatarian diet.

Once the leaders fly home from their largely symbolic missions, the bureaucrats will be left to do the hard work of negotiating the agreements intended to keep the climate from cooking.

Paris, 07:00

Today kicks off the conference proceedings, and Less Meat Less Heat founder Mark Pershin is in Paris, ready to rock the boat for the sake of a safe climate.

Mark is in Paris to share your concerns about animal agriculture, and demand action be taken to reduce agricultural emissions. The subject is not on the COP 21 agenda, but Less Meat Less Heat are determined to expose the elephant in the conference room.

As we eagerly await the start of the proceedings, we can’t help but note the apparent correlation between a country’s emissions and the size of their conference booth!

The correlation between the size of a country's emissions and the size of its conference booth is uncanny.

The correlation between the size of a country’s emissions and the size of its conference booth is uncanny.

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