Life goes on in the city that celebrates life - that is my first impression coming to Paris for the COP21 meeting, two weeks after the terror attacks. Sure, police is very visible at the airport, at the train stations and in the streets. But the people of Paris are sitting outside in the cafés and restaurants, enjoying the mild weather in November.
They even endure the traffic restrictions coming with the meeting, the closed roads for the government leaders attending the climate conference. When I travel with the RER train from the city to the meeting areal at Le Bourget, I see nothing from the expected chaos. The transport of tens of thousands of delegates, journalists and observers like me works perfectly. I just need to follow the signs - and a couple of conference pros who look as if they were heading in my direction.
At the exhibition area, colorful sculptures of animals are welcoming me. They bring to mind the species that have been saved in Noah's Ark from the Flood. I notice, though, that no humans are among the figurines.
This first day of the conference is "Leaders Day". The world's top politicians are lining up to give a speech on their countries' ambitions to combat climate change. Around lunchtime, Sweden's Stefan Löfven sneaks out with his colleagues from Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands to present the Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform Communiqué: http://fffsr.org/communique/ . The idea is to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels which are said to sum up to 500 billion USD a year - the "flipside of carbon pricing" as it was formulated at the presentation. Vattenfall is since many years supporting that carbon emissions have a price, providing market incentives for investments in low-emitting technologies. The subsidy reform is driven by more than thirty countries, among them Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and UK. Even the Swedish king, Carl XVI Gustaf, is attending the presentation of the Communiqué.
With Christmas coming closer, the Top-level Research Initiative of the Nordic Countries asks the question of all questions: "How can Rudolph help the climate?" The seminar at the Nordic pavilion is about the impact of reindeer on the boreal forests in the North. I learn that those forests are as important to the climate as the rain forests. To have reindeer playing their natural role in the maintenance of the forests requires in our modern times policies and cooperation, among others with the herders of the reindeer, a group that Vattenfall knows well from our businesses in Northern Sweden. - I understand that the climate question is a complex puzzle, consisting of complex pieces.
And then there is the "Fossil of the Day", awarded by the Climate Action Network to "those who do the most to do the least" for the climate. "Winners" on the first COP21 day are Belgium and New Zealand. Belgium's Environment Minister was criticized for having missed the climate train to Paris, because she was instead negotiating a lifetime prolongation for one of the existing nuclear power plants in Belgium. And New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key was accused of hypocrisy by claiming "that New Zealand is a leader on fossil fuel subsidy abolition - despite the country’s fossil fuel production subsidies have increased seven-fold since his election in 2008".
John Key had been speaking at the Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform event with Stefan Löfven earlier that day. The award shows that those watching the COP21 are expecting more than words. They expect the world leaders to walk the talk.
Vattenfall’s coverage of the COP21 climate change talks in Paris
Vattenfall's Head of Communications Ivo Banek is attending the climate conference COP21 in Paris as an observer. Here he writes about his personal impressions.
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