Hello all. This is John Kidder, Elizabeth’s husband. Good Sunday morning from Glasgow.
I begin with apologies for this sub-standard replacement – me in exchange for your regular correspondent. I am writing this on Saturday night outside the negotiating room at COP26, where the delegates are just now going back into the final plenary session in hopes of coming to agreement on the next steps in the fight to keep global warming to below 1.5° C above pre-industrial level. “1.5 to stay alive” is more than a catchy slogan, it is the real hard goal for planet Earth. There is hope here, along with cynicism – real movement at this meeting, some real but guarded optimism among the delegates.
Right now there is both excitement and suspense – the President’s latest text was released at 8 am today, informal discussions and negotiations went on until 1 when all the high-level delegates were brought together in an “informal plenary” to get the sense of the meeting. Most countries accepted the text, with the standard disclaimer that it couldn’t possibly be all that they were hoping for, but it was enough to move ahead with. Then some rebuffs from India and China and supporters – the text was not acceptable, nothing like enough commitments to the developing countries for loss and damage, too much restriction on their ability to determine their own path. Setback. Can it get done? After hearing from perhaps 50 countries, a short adjournment for high-pressure country-to-country negotiations, and now they’re preparing to get back to see if a formal agreement is possible. This is for the highest possible stakes, of course. I see on the livestream from the meeting room intense discussions among people like John Kerry of the US the European Union “Green Deal” chief Frans Timmermans, Alok Sharma the President of the COP with the chair from Bolivia, and later from India, who gave an impassioned criticism of the deal as now written, and other one-on-ones all around the room.
Just this minute, China and India have presented a “small” revision to the text. Just one little word – change “phase out” coal to “phase down”. Now Switzerland objects to the change, but will accept the new text. The EU echoes the sentiment. Lichenstein says “for the greater good we must swallow this bitter pill”. Mexico is very disappointed, but goes along. Marshall Islands and Fiji reads into the record “profound disappointment” to see the “bright spot of coal phase-out dim”. The President is now apologizing to the meeting for the way the process has unfolded, but, “hearing no objections, it is so decided”. So everybody is disappointed, but willing. Now the meeting is rocking through the unanimous acceptance of various matters to implement a number of terms of the Paris Agreement. Applause throughout the room with each gavel stroke signifying acceptance. The Glasgow Agreement will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement for the next few years. Hallelujah. I’ll leave a more detailed exposition to Elizabeth next week. For now, here are links to her latest pieces for Policy Magazine, “Glasgow Crunch Time”, and “Sharma Rolls the Dice”:
For my part, I’ve been talking with any number of people here and gathering recent data about the truly astonishing increase in the deployment of solar and wind energy around the world. I’ve been studying disruption – the wholesale replacement of outdated industries by newer technologies – for years. I believe this the beginning of the global disruption of energy production –fossil fuels, big hydro and nuclear energy will simply be uncompetitive within 10 years or so. And that gives the planet a mathematical possibility, perhaps even growing to a likelihood, that we might be able to keep to 1.5. Huzzah! It’s happening. If anyone is interested in the numbers, let me know at [email protected].
But in Canada, and even more in BC, we continue to bet the farm on continued development and expansion of the existing industries, in the thoroughly misguided hope that export markets will be there when the pipelines and LNG plants and big dams are finally completed.
I think that’s a fool’s errand. Further, the much talked-about “just transition” of workers and resources from fossil fuels to renewables is a pipe dream – these shifts always happens more rapidly and more massively than incumbent industries can imagine – unless our governments start looking forward, instead of planning by looking in the rear-view mirror, what we are in for will be an unplanned and most unjust disruption of workers and small businesses. This is a shameful dereliction of duty.
Governments should know better – instead of encouraging the disruption by boosting renewable energy, getting out of the fossil businesses while companies still have at least a little cash to remediate the immense damage they’ve done to land and water and indigenous communities, keeping rivers and the potential for agriculture alive, reducing the potential for catastrophic leaks and spills, our governments want to delay as long as possible the inevitable transformation, for the commercial benefit of their industrial supporters. But, once the train of disruption is clearly underway and accelerating, they’ll rush to the station to clamber aboard the caboose, and then try to take credit for building the engine. Bah.
I hope I don’t bore you with a bit of personal stuff. But it has been my great pleasure to support Elizabeth at this meeting for a couple of weeks now, and I thought you might enjoy a different sort of observation. For Elizabeth, this has been just another perfectly ordinary couple of weeks. Up at 5:45, a taxi and two trains to start at 8 in freezing rooms and tents and pavilions, discussions and meetings and research and writing and discussions until 9 or 10 in the evening, dinner somewhere, two trains and a taxi back to our billet, bed by midnight or so, up and at it again next morning. In the middle of all this, Elizabeth keeps up with media here and from Canada, Zooms with constituents and youth and other parliamentarians, meets piles of admirers every day for chats and pictures, makes introductions for new Green MP Mike Morrice to his work and to other Greens and activists from around the world, with time out to join 150,000 others for hours last Saturday in the Glasgow wind and rain.
And all this as she hobbles about with a walker to get around as her knee recovers from surgery and her other knee waiting for same – in and out of cars, on and off trains, a million steps a day in this enormous meeting place. We’re both now keenly aware of the myriad invisible barriers that hamper people with even the mildest accessibility problems. And we are enormously grateful here in Glasgow of the wonderful generosity and helpfulness of complete strangers. But Elizabeth, through her continuous discomfort and occasional real pain, is always charming and appreciative, and she has won many more admirers over here.
And I am even more appreciative of the woman I am lucky enough to be married to.
Thanks for reading, thanks for your support for Elizabeth,
Onward and upward,
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens