Post Cancun, "HOPE" has replaced "FAIL."
Staying up all night watching the final round of the Cancun climate summit last week felt much like the adrenaline-rushed atmosphere of election night, when a predicted landslide defeat was suddenly replaced by narrow victory. Emotions ran high, fueled by the sleeplessness of a long and difficult campaigning season and the dramatic 11th hour turnaround which took the whole world by surprise.
Just that morning, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh -- to whom some of the credit for this turnaround belongs -- was overheard to say that compromise had come too late and that the process was dead. 15 hours later, during a session that went on till morning, speaker after speaker declared support for the "Cancun Agreements" to the sound of euphoric cheers, including more than one standing ovation for the Mexican diplomats who brokered the deal. It was everything that Copenhagen wasn't.
Here's the exciting turn around moment caught on video by one of our Climate Negotiator Trackers, Phil Ireland:
Here are 5 reasons why post-Cancun I am more hopeful than ever about our future:
1) Youth gets it. Forget that it's a cliché, the next generation really does inspire. The "Adopt a Negotiator" team was out in force in Cancun, along with other youth delegations from around the world. The "China-U.S. Youth Climate Exchange," for example, collaborated around the clean energy race with workshops, strategy sessions and joint blogs: "As representatives of the the inheriting generations of the world's largest climate emitters, we believe that China and America must be the leaders in solving the climate crisis," said Holly Chang one of the Beijing organizers. Another young activist, Alec Loonz is enlisting kids in the battle against global warming with the goal of mobilizing 1 million kids across the US.
2) Business gets it. As an antidote to the agenda of fossil fueled zombie corporations, there is a growing force of companies working to reduce their carbon footprint in significant ways. The first annual Gigaton Awards carefully tracked the carbon efficiency of over a hundred companies and and held a gala event presided over by Sir Richard Branson, awarding the companies who had made the most progress. Another organization that rates business performance, Climate Counts reports that scores have improved overall by 14% over 2009.
3) The military gets it. Who would've believed that the U.S. Navy has a task force on climate change, let alone a Facebook page? Admiral David Titley was in Cancun to explain why the military is taking this issue very, very seriously. "The facts are the facts and I think we're going to have to try and deal with them". The Marine Corps has already set out to reduce its energy use 30 percent by 2015 and increase its reliance on renewable electrical energy to 25 percent by 2025 (they just announced today the purchase of a fleet of zero emission trucks).
4) Investors get it. The renewable energy sector is growing like gangbusters even without a strong U.S. energy bill and despite massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The Global Wind Energy Council's latest projections presented in Cancun show that wind power has been growing faster than even the most optimistic projections of the industry. The sector is well on track to supplying 12% of global electricity supply in 2020, saving 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, and 10 billion tonnes cumulatively by that time. Despite a worldwide recession, clean energy investments have increased 230 percent since 2005 globally, an estimated $200 billion alone in 2010 according to a new report by Pew (PDF).
5) Civil Society gets it. In just the last few months TckTckTck's alliance of nonprofit organizations grew by more than 40, now totaling more than 270 NGO's around the world with a 100 million+ reach. Many of these organizations come from outside the traditional climate campaigning community -- labor unions, poverty and education campaigns, women's rights organizations, and even healthcare organizations, for example, which have issued a call to action recognizing that reducing greenhouse gases provide enormous gains for public health.
The Cancun outcome was no landslide victory. We still have a long way to go in the race to a low carbon future and to get a final *FAB* agreement that is fair, ambitious and binding. It's up to all of us to turn up the heat on governments before the next summit in Durban, South Africa in 2011.