Global Climate March, Oslo, 281115, Photo - Reuters
Global Climate March, Oslo, 281115, Photo – Reuters

Today sees 147 World Leaders descend upon Paris in a bid to come to an agreement on an universal climate change policy.  There is some, but not a huge amount of optimism, that a consensus will be reached.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN for one, says he is optimistic that an agreement will be successfully negotiated.  Speaking ahead of the conference he said, “We’ve been working very hard, very long – the time for action is now. I have seen growing political momentum among Member States. They know that they have to take action.”

COP21, or in layman’s terms, Conference of Paris 21, the 21st climate change summit being held in the French capital, has been hailed by many political leaders and environmentalists alike as, “the most important global meeting of our lifetime”.

Speaking to the Morning Ireland radio show earlier today, Jean-Pierre Thébault, French Ambassador to Ireland, confirmed that France was fully committed to securing a legally binding agreement and, that it would not desist negotiating until one had been reached. “There is no ‘Planet B’, so there is no ‘Plan B’,” he said.  He insisted that failure to reach an agreement over the course of the next two weeks would lead to “climate chaos”!

Thébault called for the active participation by NGOs as well as all corners of Civic Society.  He said France welcomed contributions from science, agriculture, environmentalists – groups of people who can be involved in the decision shaping, whilst at the same time leaving the decision making to the world’s politicians.

Ireland will be represented at the summit by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly.  Our own Agricultural emissions are indeed a huge sore point, as they account for 29% of Ireland’s overall emissions, a much larger % than that of most other EU countries.  The high level of agricultural emissions, the Minister said, has been proactively countered by continued expansion in areas such as forestation, something which is not as yet taken into consideration by the EU, but which Kelly will argue to have changed during negotiations this week.

Facing down criticism of Ireland’s “meagre” financial contribution of €2 million to climate control, the minister stated that the figure was only part of Ireland’s overall contribution and that our financial input was set to rise over coming years.

Like Ban Ki-Moon, Kelly has also insisted that the outcome of the summit needs to be a legally binding agreement to which all countries can work.  Significantly, this week will see Ireland become one of the first EU countries to legislate for climate control, with a new Controlling Climate Bill set to be passed through the Houses with ease.  It is also probably not insignificant that one of the key influencers behind Ireland’s ardent move towards climate control is none other than our former president, Mary Robinson, who currently holds the position of UN Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Appointed by Ban Ki-Moon to the role in 2014, Robinson, who set up the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice in 2010, has gone on record as saying that 2015 is the most crucial of years for climate change.  Robinson has been an active and positive voice for climate control across the world’s airwaves since taking up her latest UN position,  and recently spoke at length on the urgent need for a universally agreed policy with Brian Dobson, of RTE News, during a prime time feature ahead of the Paris summit.

Pairs of shoes are symbolically placed on the Place de la Republique, after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Pairs of shoes are symbolically placed on the Place de la Republique, after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Yesterday, 11,000 pairs of shoes were placed on the Place de la Republique in Paris, after a planned march had to be cancelled due to a ban on mass gatherings being imposed by the French government in the wake of the recent atrocities.

Environmental groups from around the world, as well as ordinary civilians, congregated in Paris to show the world’s politicians how united they were in their stand for protection of the environment.

Worldwide marches were held in unison with the relatively peaceful Parisian protest, including a climate rally in Dublin and a large global climate march in Oslo.  Significantly in Norway, several high profile musicians and artists, including chart topper Susanne Sundfor, have rowed in behind the Norwegian movement to help give it weight and raise its profile.  Sundfor publicly called for support for the Oslo march, in which she participated, via her social media channels.

“Climate change is something that has worried me since childhood and I think it’s time we start opening our eyes and try to find ways to take care of what we still have. The most efficient way to do this is to let politicians know we are not happy with their efforts and that we wont stop telling them until we are.” Susanne Sundfor

Not insignificantly, one of Norway’s largest music festivals, Øyafestivalen, has  given backing to climate protection, and produced its own environmentally responsible mission statement as part of the festivals objectives – read it here.

Currently a hot topic of environmental debate in Norway, is the subject of oil, and many musicians, artists and festivals are now rowing in behind groups like Nok oljesponsing!, in the call out against fossil fuel funding .  As part of their commitment to the anti fossil fuel extraction campaign, Nok oljesponsing and many others will congregate in Paris on 9th December for the Big Oil out of Culture @ the Paris Climate Summit, see details here.

How successful these groups and politicians will be in switching off this ticking time bomb remains to be seen.  What is remarkable though, is the weight that music and musicians can bring to bear on such occasions.  With heavyweights like Sundfor and Oya behind climate protection in Norway it’s voice is getting louder and stronger.  One would hope that similarly many other like minded musicians and artists would row in, not just in Norway, but across the world, to support the fight to protect our planet, during what must be, the most important global conference of all time.

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