Lance Armstrong was wrong about pretty much everything, as we know. In 2000, after just one Tour de France 'win', he published an autobiography entitled It's Not About The Bike. No Lance, in your case it was never about the bike. I felt I needed to add a cycling blog, seeing Pedal2Paris was a cycle ride. Continue reading It is all about the Climate
A much quieter day today although it zapped by and I hardly stopped 'catching up'. Sad! Got to Le Bourget early but hit absurd queues - half an hour to get in, then even queues to the computer desks - there are just 1000s of people here and everyone gets hungry - the food queues are just daft and by the time you get to the head of the queue, all the veggie food is invariaby gone (not that that upsets the French much - and the whole thing really is TRÈS français!). On the way back last night, I sat in the crush of the (free) navette shuttle to the metro next to a charming Malaysian negotiator (Elizabeth, she allowed me to know!), who soon put me sraight on my pathetic superficial reference to palm-olive forests - they're plantations, silly (and the UK, inter alia, set them up - but the Malaysians have draconian and enforced legislation in place to protect deforestration. Equally pathetic was my attempt to exhibit bravado to the two 'Men in Black' opposite me from Saudi Arabia, ostensibly here to represent their Government's investment into renewables. They somehow were not prepared to talk about the effect of the Saudi oil price 'fix' on US fracking and Canadian tar-sands - but I admired my tact ....... But today, it was just an internet troll and catch up, although I did still hear some fascinating presentations on the Big Screen behind me, one particlarly on global water-level rises, courtesy Google 3D projections. I think the link is 'changes climate sea level rises' - there's lots there. I was also very pleased to meet up with the inspiring Keli Yen, the new co-ordinator of the Global Greens, with whom I was able to talk contructively at last, face to face, about the forthcoming Global Greens and EGP congresses here in the UK in 2017. We really must get some momentm going on this pretty soon - s'gonna be BIG! However, we need some photos don't we - random OK?
Having failed to get past the security on Monday morning at Le Bourget COP21 site (hardly surprising with Barack Obama, David Cameron, et al. arriving at the same time), Ricky and I headed back into Paris. Meeting the Climate Guardian Angels was a wonderful experience - so inspiring to see young people so committed to achieving change! Packed my bags and loaded my bike and cycled to Gare St Lazare to catch the 13.45 train to Caen; the train was able to cover what took us three days a little over two hours. That's modern transport for you! Had a weird experience at Gare St Lazare; was just walking past an advertisement for The Netherlands (Pays Bas in French), when I noticed in the picture a white campervan which looked like mine. On closer inspection of the registration plate, it was mine! The photograph was of the causeway across the Ysselmeier which closed off what was the Zuider Zee in the 1930s. The picture must have been taken in June this year when Nona and I were en route to Scandinavia and had decided to drive across the causeway in northern Netherlands. How strange was that?! Anyway, the rest of the trip back home (ferry from Caen to Portsmouth, train from Portsmout to Penmere) was straightforward. Now it is down to Ricky, and everyone else at COP21, to help reach a meaningful binding set of climate change targets! Slight feeling of sadness at not still being in Paris to experience the daily unfolding of events as the world's politicians grapple with the task of attaining climate justice and equality for all - including future generations, and all species, not just humans!
A text from Daniella alerted me to a possible meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Paris at 13.30 at Le Bourget. Euan will be pleased to know, a little like our search for 'Place 2B, we really should have persevered on Monday, because just around the corner from the impenetrable main conference site is a massive publicly accessible arena, where it's ALL happening! Why on earth was this not made clear to people like us? I was SO relieved to find this area - where I the spent the rest of the day! Despite arriving on time, the Mayor's meeting had finished early and Krugman had departed. However, George was more than happy to receive the report - he meets up with Mayor Hidalgo (she could knock spots of that oaf Johnson, who of course, is not here) and has promised to ensure that the report is handed to her. The 350.org forum was so exciting, so full of positivity - the divestment campaign is now all but unstoppable and it is hurting the fossil fuel companies exactly where it hurts - in their shareholders' dividends. McKibben was brief and fled (very busy man), Jeremy Leggett excellent as usual - but for me the most significant contribution came from Stephen Heintz, President of, no less, the Rockefeller Brothers' Foundation. Talk about a Damascene (sp?) conversion! Conceding that this concern had made its fortune from Oil, they're now putting all their efforts not the Divest/Invest campaign. I don't give a fig that they scent the money to be made from renewables but I actually don't doubt that they really know that any investment into fossil fuels is a sure-fire loser. It's happening! Luci, I got within 10 metres of Ségolène Royal, but reckon I would've been pepper-sprayed if I'd tried to get any closer with the report - sorry! Absolutely fascinating presentation from 'Earth Engine Timelapses' (try this link for a flavour - but it's nice to have a facilitator: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIYHGkSb-fU) - as if proof were needed of the mess we're making of our planet - satellite images of the earth over 30 years - astonishing. And a great panel on electric cars - again, it's happening - we have to believe it. This time, there's no hiding place.
Here's my take on why it makes utterly no sense not to be involved in politics - because we can all have an effect, especially locally. Meeting Ferguson yesterday - and listening to the Mayor of Ghent last Friday reminded me of the simple fact that it's NOT just about the Big Guys (and isn't it just a sea of male grey suits!) who matter. It's ordinary people - we have proven that to enough with the Climate Vision report: thousands of cities around the world are taking the lead, thousands of groups and organisations and businesses are picking up the dropped climate change challenge baton, knowing that it makes perfect business, employment, financial, social and moral sense. So today, a bit of a 'rest' day, I cycled down to l'Hotel de Ville by Notre Dame, where the City of Paris has an outdoor public exhibition demonstrating all the city is doing to encourage and support the growth of functioning sustainability in its remit. Excellent stuff - and entirely logical, not just for George to take back to his own city of Bristol, which is one place which is ripe and ready for just the sort of things Paris (and so many other cities) are yearning to embrace - but also for smaller communities. [Can't upload photo - will try later] Solar on every municipal building; all municipal transport electric/hydrogen; embrace all forms of renewables, including ground-source heat pumps; insulate all homes; healthy food in schools and residential homes, hospitals etc; powerful liaison with local firms and landlords to improve private practice (it goes on). We have to invest in our future and that includes investing in the communal infrastructure, such that our communities can live and thrive sustainably. I reckon the knowledge, the incentive, the potential is all there, lurking in some brilliant minds. Where is the leadership? Well, there's a whole lot more in our cities than there seems to be in Westminster. [another photo for later]
Great to have now seen the excellent posts from my sadly missed colleagues, who have brought our adventure up to date. Ewan - the perfect update, topped and tailed with the 'continuation' in Bristol with Molly and Tony (The 'Mayor-to-be'?!) - thanks, mate: lovely. Getting reliable and durable internet connection here is frustrating - but I seem to be in - and hopefully, might even affix some photos this time. There is SO much stuff on-line streaming out of Le Bourget - as Ewan alludes and as the EGP updates confirm, there are some fantastic speeches coming our way. I refuse to even think it's 'Greenwash' ......... yet! But this time, the whole world really is watching - there will not be another hidey-hole for the US and China (and India?) to bolt into like in '09. The venue itself is 'temporary', near the old airport. Thought you'd like this 'confirmation: So just for today's Blog, I'll digress to the title. It started yesterday morn, just before Euan had to leave and we were trying to gate-crash the party (er, unsuccessfully). We chatted to the 'Climate Angels', the only ones seemingly demonstrating at the actual venue; they did catch Al Gore's eye tho' - he came in via the 'plebs' entrance. Google them - FoE, Aussie-based - delightful. One of them just so happened to be the daughter of the best friends of my German teaching colleague from my sabbatical in Victoria in 1999. You can see how chuffed we are! 19 yrs old and utterly committed to saving the planet. Later, at the 'Place 2B' near the Gare du Nord (Euan - you'll be pleased to know I found it at last), I was just drinking a glass of water (as you do) when who should I spot but Ruth and two mates who had cycled with 13 others all the way from Bristol (hey, they had carbon-support with all their bags! Cheating!) - Ruth had joined us last year on our Brussels minibus trip to see Molly. Great. They were awaiting the arrival of the red-trousered philanthropist, the Mayor of Bristol, here to cavort with the Mayor of Paris and join in with the 'Covenant de Maires' (sounds vaguely black magic). I must ingratiate myself with them and try and get a CV report to Hidalgo! Wow! So off we go, there to meet up with the others including Darren Hall and partner Charlie - and there already with the BBC crew was Paul Barltrop. George walks up - SURPRISE! And with him was our own Daniella. Not even remotely staged - no way! (sorry about the orange tint and my Hi-vis 'halo' - which has slipped a bit): I'll lave it at that fro the time being - although there was one more really weird thing that happened at Gare St Lazare, as Euan and I bade good-bye. I know I'm here to report on the talks - yeah, right - but, as said, it's everywhere - I'm just blogging some stuff .........
(This blog delayed by a busy 24 hours in Paris, then return travel to the Bristol Climate March) We rode into central Paris in sunshine on Thursday afternoon. The French climate had been kinder to us since the weekend, and Thursday morning dawned brighter than any that welcomed us into Brittany and Normandy. Françoise and Laurence, our hosts in rural Senneville, a mere 60 km from the centre Paris, had fed us well the night before. Françoise even filmed our departure and rode the first kilometre with us. The Paris that we found was getting on with life with all of the insouciance that we would have expected, regardless of the criminal actions of a few bearing guns two weeks before. Barack Obama has today saluted the UN COP21 climate talks as "an act of defiance" – the Parisiens with whom we four British cyclists shared a Metro carriage, on the way to a (most) welcome dinner with SW Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, would not have had it any other way. Friday morning brought the European Parliament Greens / European Free Alliance (EFA) group pre-COP21 seminar, in the Tara Ocean and Climate Pavilion:
- Rebecca Harms, Greens/EFA President, spoke of her grounded optimism in COP21's bottom-up approach;
- Romain Troublé, Co-ordinator of Tara Expeditions, gave an overview of the #OceanForClimate campaign at COP21.
- Molly Scott Cato argued that public money creation must lead the way if we are to conquer climate change, as part of an expert debate on climate finance that included:
- Monica Araya of Cost Rica stating that "We need to switch narrative to co-operation & collaboration, and not apologise for it", and identifying "the biggest and most difficult question" as "how to unplug dirty energy projects" – George Osborne really should have been there!
- Alix Mazounie of France saying that France, like many richer countries, needs to increase the political will, and focus more on funding adaptation to climate change.
- Claude Turmes of Luxembourg advocating de-risking energy finance via IRENA to shift solar power from where the money is, to where the sun is.
- Isabelle Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development and Co-operation, warning negotiators not to let "the usual suspects" of vested interests make 'best' the enemy of the common good at COP21.
- In a discussion of possible outcomes and communication, Asad Rehman of FoE identified the strategic challenge as democratic: recognising that people do not currently have enough power to deliver the positive change they demand – while Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg's President of EU Council of Ministers for the Environment, summed up the EU position with "we must raise our ambition - be courageous and take responsibility".
- A concluding interview with Polish journalist Karolina Zbytniewska highlighed why we all need the EU if we are to conquer climate change, saying that the Polish Government "thinks its national treasure is coal", but the positive future lays in the Polish diaspora wanting to feel included in the international debate. The Guardian's Fiona Harvey had sent apologies at the last minute, when she secured an interview with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
As everyone knows, after the dreadful events of two weeks ago, all mass demonstrations had been banned in Paris, which was a bit of a setback as that meant that there were Climate Rallies taking place in major cities all around the world - except Paris, where the Climate talks are about to start! Well, fortunately, that was not totally true, as there has been the virtual rally in the Place de la Republique, where thousands of shoes (including donations from Pope Francis and Ban Ki Moon) were placed to represent the people who would have been there had the authorities allowed. And there was the human chain which had been agreed by the authorities along the Boulevard Voltaire here at noon today (Sunday 29 November). So Ricky and I (the two surviving Climate Vision cyclists) travelled the Metro to Charonne Station and on emerging to street level found several hundred already getting in line. As midday approached, more and more emerged and joined in until there must have been 5-10 thousand people strung out along the boulevard. Ricky and I found ourselves alongside Jenny Jones (Green Party representative in the House of Lords), Christine Milne (former leader of the Australian Green Party) and a number of Green MEP staff. It was all incredibly positive, and peaceful. It was just good to be with so many people of determination and goodwill. And there was not a single policeman or soldier in sight. After an hour and a half, the human chain gently melted away. Apparently, some people went on to the Place de la Republique to gather where, unfortunately a small number of people bent on provocation also went. And so followed a confrontation with the police who were a little too diligent in trying to stop the action - all too predictably, people were attacked, tear gas fired and around 200 people arrested. All we knew about it was when we were travelling back from the human chain, our Metro train did not stop at Republique Station and, as we passed through, I could see a couple of dozen armed police on the platform and people being held back from the platform. Unfortunately the media, ever-attentive for a dramatic story to tell, will doubtless focus on the violent few and ignore the peaceful many. Nevertheless, they can never take away the abiding memory of all those wonderfully motivated people. One other extraordinary experience was when Ricky and I, reaching the end of the human chain along Boulevard Voltaire, found ourselves in front of the Cafe Voltaire, where one of the attacks took place two weeks ago. Along with the other people who were paying their respects, I found a white poppy in my pocket and was able to place that with the flowers and candles. And to offer a prayer for peace.
If you have been following our blog on www.pedal2paris.uk you will know that Roger, Ricky, Ewan and I have had a rather challenging cycle ride to Paris - the weather was wet, windy and cold for the most part. However, the camaraderie of the four helped us all along and on Thursday 26 November on a bright sunny day we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as we cycled into Paris! On Friday, the Federation of European Greens held a series of talks about how to finance the changes required to move from fossil fuels to a renewable future. It was very positive and exciting, and during the meeting we were able to hand over a number of copies of Luci Isaacson`s Climate Vision report to a number of national representatives and MEPs.
In the afternoon, I decided to see if I could deliver the letter that I had carried all the way from Looe in my cycle pannier bag. I walked to the Place de la Concord and along the street to the Elysee Palace; as expected, there were metal barricades up around the Palace and armed police in considerable numbers. I spoke to a young black policewoman saying that I had a letter to deliver to the President. She instructed me to stand on the street corner, in clear view, and to not move! She then crossed the street to consult with her senior colleague. He came over, listened to my request and asked to see my passport. They then both escorted me to a side door to the Palace and told me to wait with the junior officer whilst the senior officer took my passport through the side door. A moment later, one of the Palace police, resplendent in kepi and gold braid, stepped out of the side entrance, accepted the letter, gave me back my passport and thanked me most courteously for the letter. And that was it! Considering that the whole of Paris was on high alert, it all took place in an easy and quite straightforward manner! I had visions of not being able to get within half a mile of the Palace!
So, job done! I must say it was an honour to be able to carry this important message to the President and the people of Paris and France.
Below left: I receive the letter for President Hollande from the Mayor of Looe.
Below right: A view of the Elysee Palace just before I handed the letter in to the Palace Police!
Despite all one might hear, although Paris if full of soldiers, everywhere; although the air is full of sirens and the streets full of police cars and motor bikes, basically it's a city brim-full of people just doing what people do in cities. Problem is, since all the Green groups and NGOs have given copious details of all they intend to do, it was easy for the authorities to insist that everything is cancelled - which is what happened to the bike cavalcade today - and because I s'pose (unfortunately) we/they have to respond appropriately and responsibly, they just said 'no go' and we had to formally call a stop to everything - gutted! However, Euan and I, anarchists that we are, nonetheless cycled all the way to the hitherto meeting place at the Eiffel Tower and staged our own mini-2-man demo - caused a sensation as you can imagine for the thousands who gravitate there anyway everyday. Daft! Went to a multi-faith service at Notre Dame tonight and afterwards met up with the whole admin department of 350.org in a lovely brasserie by the Pompidou Centre - all beautiful, young and super-switched-on. It is so energising to be made aware of just how many of the cream of Europe's young intellectuals are beavering away for change. It makes sense: they need a planet to live in - the one that we baby-boomers have all but destroyed. Hopefully, there will be more to report tomorrow. Another try for a fun photo: if it don't upload, s.th is wrong. Here goes: [nope!]