I’m finally in Paris for the Climate Talks

I made a small crowdfunding contribution to get today’s Guest Poster, Thom Mitchell of New Matilda, to the Climate Talks in Paris. This is the email he sent to his supporters earlier today – with permission to share.

Interesting indeed!

Bonjour de Paris,

Thanks to your generous support of New Matilda and myself, I’ve been pounding the cobblestones in the City of Lights now for four days. It’s been strange: the State of Emergency which flowed from the Paris terror attacks has given rise, literally, to an army of armed guards.

Many of them are dressed in military fatigues, many of them are cops, and all of them are heavily armed. There’s beefy men with guns on every street corner and in every alcove. I’m staying right by Place De République, which is less than a kilometre from Le Bataclan where the main attacks occurred. It’s near the bar-littered district which was targeted by gunmen, and it’s tense like a spring loaded with the memory of Paris’ fresh trauma.

At a cafe I’ve been frequenting, I spoke to a Kiwi who’s been living in Paris close to a year. He saw ‘them’, he said, “just get out of their cars with machine guns and start shooting; the bodies turned inside out”. He sheltered with the army, said he saw the tanks role in. Two days later, at Le République, which has transformed into a perpetually candlelit vigil people often pause at passing through, when a large crowd got spooked by a firecracker. They stampeded into cafes, overturning set tables to shield them from bullets that never came.

Just a few months earlier, he’d been across the road from the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the site of an earlier terror strike, and understandably he’s shaken. The French are trying to play down their terror, he said, to not let on how deeply affected they are. But I’m told the streets are unusually thin with people. One woman I spoke with said she’s avoiding going out, and not reading the news, because she knows she’ll restart imagining if she does.

There’s a sort of theatre being played out by the men with rifles, handguns, bullet vests and batons. I’ve followed a few convoys, sirens blaring, only for them to park calmly just a few blocks away. Nothing to see there but scores of vans, sometimes marked and sometimes not; coveting the hundreds or thousands of security people walking, parking, leaning against walls and those big French double doors that lead to apartment building courtyards.

But I came for the climate conference, arguably one of the greatest peace talks in the world, and so did thousands of activists. They’re competing for the now heavily controlled public space, and again La République is a point in case. It’s the first thing I saw when I emerged from the subway and my thirty-hour long haul flight, and it’s become a symbol of the conflicted and confused response of shaken Parisians.

Named after the French Republic, and home to a large bronze statue symbolising it, Marianne, it’s long been a flashpoint of political activity. The hundreds of thousands of climate campaigners who had been set to take to Parisian streets would, I assume, have focalised on it if a march that had been planned for November 29 hadn’t been stymied by the State of Emergency.

Now, in fraternity with the planet and the millions or billions that stand to be decimated if global greenhouse gas emissions are not brought to heel and stomped out, a human chain will issue from the iconic square, the physical allegory to France’s claimed values of liberty and equality.

As the United Nations General Secretary Envoy for Youth said at a climate function I attended on Friday, “we are here to show that France and Paris will always be stronger than the attempts of these fanatics…[but] we are also here to send a message of support and solidarity with the planet, the only planet we have”.

But over and above the sting of the attacks, there is a sense of hope with greater longevity. A few hours ago, I filed my first yarn from Le Bourget, on the Parisian fringe where the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is being staged.

That’s the UN lingo for the international process around climate change, and the Executive Secretary to that convention, Christiana Figueres, was there at Le Bourget today. So was the French Foreign Minister, who’s soon to be installed as President of COP21, Laurant Fabius. They gave a lengthy press briefing on where the process is at, and what to expect in the coming two weeks of negotiations.

They didn’t mention the sleep deprivation, or the lack of nutritious food that has allegedly plagued past talks (although, the salad I had today was pretty bloody good). But they did exude confidence the Paris climate talks will be a success.

They would, though, of course, wouldn’t they?

But it’s true that there’s cause for optimism, and I think one of Figuere’s comments was genuinely made: “Before [it] was thought that addressing climate change was going to be only a burden. Now, over time, and particularly in the past year, it has been shown that we do not need to choose between economic development, between security, and between addressing climate change, but that these things go hand in hand”.

The Pope, Islamic Scholars, the US and China; segments of business, swathes of sub-national jurisdictions, and the vast mobilisation of people across the globe this weekend have moved in unison over recent months to set the stage for a (comparatively) ambitious, legally binding, and imperative climate pact to keep the rise in global average temperatures at least below two degrees.

They all have their own agendas, it’s true. Some of them will be invidious, like our own Prime Minister’s. Other’s will be insidious, like the fossil fuel companies that are ironically and insultingly funding the climate conference. And some of them will be illusory, like many of the non-government agencies that are working to ramp up pressure on problem countries like Australia.

But the hallmark of the Paris talks is that they aim to set up a process. We know the agreement will not be enough to keep us within the internationally agreed two degree guard rail. Figeures admitted as much today. But its organisers have been careful to focus on establishing a process for ratcheting up national commitments over time, rather than resurrecting the ill-fated ‘Hopenhagen’ campaign the United Nations ran ahead of failed talks in 2009.

What’s really at stake, more than anything, is the nature of the response. We can be quietly confident that there’s enough will – and enough political skin in the game – to get a reasonable outcome.

This time, it’s more a question of who that process works for, and why. And it’s too early to tell how things will play out: Who will be legally bound, and how? Will rich nations accept responsibility for enriching themselves through fossil fuels that now threaten, in particular, people in the developing world? And how much influence will the long arm of the fossil fuel lobby wield?

I’ll be filing regular updates to keep you in the loop, and to show my gratitude for your support for independent media and my work. These insider emails are only going to the funders of this campaign, but of course, feel free to share if you like. And also feel free to drop me a line here if you have any questions or comments.

For now though,

Au revoir.


325 thoughts on “I’m finally in Paris for the Climate Talks

  1. When did Medicare spending soar?

    In the decade to 2003-4, Medicare spending grew by A$53 per head. Just over half of that was attributable to the addition of new diagnostic imaging items to the schedule. In the next decade, spending grew at five times that rate – by A$272 per head.

    Most of the growth was due to decisions taken when Tony Abbott was health minister, between 2003 and 2007. In fact, almost half (47%) of the growth in Medicare spending over the last two decades is the result of policy decisions taken when he was running the health portfolio.


  2. Great bit of limelight-stealing by Shorten.

    Labor gazumps Turnbull with a range of tax breaks to drive innovation

    The federal Opposition has stolen a march on Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation statement by promising to introduce tax breaks to drive investment by venture capital funds and others in start-ups.

    Opposition leader Bill Shorten and shadow minister for innovation Kim Carr will announce the policy in Melbourne on Friday morning.

    On Monday the government will release its innovation statement, which is tipped to include tax incentives to drive innovation, including research and development tax concessions for businesses that work with universities to develop ideas


  3. Diddums

    Anger is growing in Liberal Party ranks over the defection of dumped Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane to the Nationals party, with MPs openly attacking the former Liberal saying he was putting himself before the interests of the Coalition.

    Liberal MP and Minister for International Development, Steven Ciobo, set off the public attacks on Thursday saying Mr Macfarlane’s move was unfortunate timing for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his new team, and he was “a little aggrieved” by it.

    “I think this is about MacFarlane making a decision that serves his interests,” he said, adding Mr Macfarlane was simply trying to change his political fortunes by switching teams.

    On Friday morning, other Liberals openly joined the fray, with Liberal MP Dan Tehan saying Mr Macfarlane should not be putting personal ambition ahead of party loyalty on ABC Radio.

    Mr Tehan said people should not be “gaming the system,” and MPs should be focused on representing people and staying loyal to the party that supports you. Mr Macfarlane’s switch and the possible move of Queenslander Scott Buchholz​ would see the Nationals’ parliamentary numbers boost to 23 MPs and Senators, which the Nationals suggest entitles them to an extra ministry.

    Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told Channel Nine he was “disappointed” by Mr Macfarlane’s decision, and suggested he had a “good run” and should accept his loss of a cabinet position – a view held by many Liberals.

    “I’m sorry he was disappointed he was asked to retire from the cabinet but he has been in the cabinet since 2000 so he has had a pretty good run in the cabinet,” Mr Pyne told the Nine Network on Friday.

    One Liberal source said Mr Macfarlane could have left the party having “had a good ministerial career and now he leaves with grubby fingers”.

    Deputy Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce backed behind his leader Warren Truss, saying it would be “simple mathematics” that more numbers would equate to a new ministry.

    Mr Joyce dismissed suggestions this would create politically damaging fractions within the Coalition if the Liberals had to dump one of their ministers.

    “It wouldn’t be the first time a person has changed position in the Coalition. Hell, we just changed the PM not that long ago,” Mr Joyce said.

    Queensland National Michelle Landry said she would like to see Mr Macfarlane gain a cabinet position, and would not be surprised if Scott Buchholz also joins the Nationals.


  4. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/03/five-stages-reactions-republican-candidates-mass-shootings

    “Mass shooting events in America happen at an alarming rate, with roughly one every day. When an attack hits the headlines … the prospective Republican candidates for president have a clear playbook.”

    Stage 1: Silence.
    Stage 2: Prayer
    Stage 3: ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’
    Stage 4: Shift the focus to mental health
    Stage 5: Integrate the attack into the campaign

  5. Was it just me, or has Andrew Elder moved his site to an invitation only access? Disappointing. because I enjoyed reading his contributions to the debate. Alternatively, how might one obtain said invitation?

  6. Ajax
    It’s not just you and I have no idea how you go about getting an invitation.

    It’s very disappointing.

  7. Really close it was

    Full result
    Lab: 17,322
    UKIP: 6,487
    Cons: 2,596
    Lib Dem: 1,024
    Green: 249
    Monster Raving Loony: 141

  8. We have received a notice from Origin Energy, that as a customer with grid-connected solar panels, we will henceforth be billed an additional ‘solar meter charge’ of 6.767c/day (excluding GST)

    “Previously this charge was spread across all electricity customers, but now will be passed through directly to customers with solar meters”
    FAQ here: https://www.originenergy.com.au/for-home/solar/plans-offers/solar-meter-charge-faq.html

    As I understand it, the meters used for households with solar power don’t require a meter reader to visit, they automatically send readings directly to the electricity provider instead.

    However, so far as I can see, we get no discount for the costs saved from this automation – yet now we’re being hit with an additional indefinitely ongoing charge!

    *feeling just a bit grumpy*

  9. socks
    The energy companies will find a way to get at you, no matter what you do. Blood-sucking scum, the lot of them.

  10. I know that it’s only about $27/yr (for now), but I would think that amount would be more than offset by not needing 4 onsite visits/yr by a meter reader.

  11. socks

    by not needing 4 onsite visits/yr by a meter reader.

    Here they only come and read the meter once a year. They ‘shape’ their charge on previous usage for the other 3 bills and ‘correct’ it once a year by the actual reading.

  12. Just ate some totally delicious smooth, tangy, creamy, full–on strawberry flavor strawberry gelato that I churned today. Nearly 1.4L is in the freezer for Christmas Day family lunch, together with containers of mango and chocolate gelato. Will make pistachio gelato Sunday when the bowl from my other icecream machine will be frozen.

    A book Gelato by Linda Tubby(!) told me the sure fire way to get creamy gelato/icecream: when heating the custard component of the gelato use a food thermometer and let the custard get no hotter than 75°C.

    Cuisinart ice cream machines are still on sale at General Trader for $80.

  13. PA – You’re an industrious bugger.

    My preparation for Christmas is making sure I have enough fuel to cook a turkey breast on my Weber and buying a couple of bags of ice.

  14. I like icecream 🙂 My chooks and my machine are the industrious ones.

    Nice feeling all my christmass preparations are done already!

    Well, apart from an ambitious (hint: one or two disasters) five course meal for me, Mum and a niece and great niece Milly on Christmass eve. Will be practising the more difficult courses beforehand to minimise disasters 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. The Great Gelato Custard Base Debate – I was taught to heat the custard to 85C and then take it off the heat immediately and stand in an ice bath for fast cooling, rather than leave the custard at 75C for 15 minutes. It’s all about pasteurising the egg yolks, apparently.

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