2 Of Paris Climate Negotiators Lay Out 2 Scenarios In Their New Book

Feb 23, 2020
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

You don't have to look far to see the effects of the climate crisis all around us - in Australia with the recent devastating fires that annihilated wildlife and clogged the skies with smoke; in Miami, threatened with rising sea waters and stronger storms; here in D.C. right now, where spring is arriving almost a month early, and there was barely any snow this winter. And with all this evidence comes a feeling for many of despair. What can we do?

In the new book "The Future We Choose: Surviving The Climate Crisis," two of the lead negotiators of the Paris climate agreement lay out two scenarios - one where we do nothing and another where we adapt and act. We're joined now by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac to talk about these two possibilities. Christiana joins us from her home in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Welcome.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: Thank you very much, Lulu. Wonderful to be on your show.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wonderful to have you. And Tom joins us from London.

Welcome.

TOM RIVETT-CARNAC: Thank you very much. Great to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk to you today, actually, about what we can do because we've heard a lot about what's happening, but you discuss in this book the idea of a green planet, of a better future where people have relinquished their cars and there are more trees. Christiana, how does that happen?

FIGUERES: We have to be able to consciously decide that we will rally all our innovation, all our creativity, all our ingenuity in order to collectively - because individually, it's impossible - collectively be able to address climate change in a timely fashion. So that is the first thing. Then we have to prepare for this internally before we go out and do the physical measures that we actually also have to engage in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, tell me what some of those things are for people who are listening. I mean, what are the things that we can do? And then I want to go on to talk about some of the challenges that we face on different levels - in business and in government. But what can we do as individuals?

RIVETT-CARNAC: So in the immediate short term, there are a range of different things. One of those is around food. Eating meat is something we have become habituated to. But actually, it is having a devastating impact on the planet. Just deciding to remove meat from a day a week or a meal a day is a hugely positive step and improves health anyway.

We can also pay real attention to how we move ourselves. We can shift our mode of transport to public transport, to electric vehicles where possible. And we can also pay attention to things like where our money is invested. Pensions have huge power to actually shift the future. And so we can ask questions of the trustees that hold our money if we have pensions, and that can have a major impact on the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Tom, can this happen under the current situation? In 2017, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. How do you accomplish the goals of cutting emissions to zero by 2050, for example, when you have world leaders saying climate change is a nonissue?

RIVETT-CARNAC: Well, look. World leaders are obviously fundamental to this, and what Donald Trump has done is appalling, as far as we're concerned, in terms of pulling out of the Paris Agreement. But let me answer your question a slightly different way. Right now, 49% of global GDP is already covered by a net-zero by 2050 target. That is - either it's a country or a state or a region or an investor or a business that has made a commitment to get its emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Now, that is what is required by science. Interestingly, with the U.S., the U.S. is with it - in with a fighting chance of still meeting its commitments that were made under President Obama in Paris because of the leadership that's been shown by states, by businesses, by regions, by all these other players in the economy. So it's not true that nothing is happening. There is huge momentum.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were negotiators on the Paris Agreement. Are you disappointed in how it's turned out so far? And is this one of the reasons why you wanted to write this book?

FIGUERES: I've been asked several times, you know, is the Paris Agreement basically in the trash can? And most definitely it is not. It was always constructed in full recognition of the fact that we can't decarbonize overnight, that it is going to be a multidecadal effort. This is the full run all the way to 2050. Yes, the first 10 years are absolutely critical because the first 10 years - from 2020 to 2030, which is the decade that we have just started - are the 10 years in which we absolutely have to get on the right course of emission reductions. That is what the book is about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Tom Rivett-Carnac and Christiana Figueres, and they are the authors of "The Future We Choose." They also host the podcast "Outrage And Optimism."

Thank you both very much.

FIGUERES: Thank you.

RIVETT-CARNAC: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.