The City That Never Sleeps is wired with thoughts of climate change coursing through its head. Much of the world had its eye on New York this past week, as heads of state gathered here like millennials to Bonaroo. The world has decided to take another stab at climate change. Because, as they say, doing the same thing and expecting different results is totally sane, right?
This Summit is remarkable in several ways. Given our long lists of well-meaning attempts to redirect the predicted chaos, from Kyoto in ’92, to Durham in 2011, to and most prominent Copenhagen in ’09—all which, let’s be honest, ended in spectacularly, embarrassing failures. You’d think that these heads of state all have some sick, masochistic pleasure for being embarrassed on a world stage.
If you ask Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and the current U.N. special envoy on climate change, she will tell you that this time around things are different (never heard that one before). During a Newshour interview on Tuesday, she said, “the main goal is to bring climate just action up to heads of state. We need leadership and ambition in order to get a climate agreement in Paris in 2015.” You heard it, we had 120 heads of state meet to have a non-binding chat about climate change before they take a stab at establishing a real treaty designed to save the world (pardon the hyperbole, but it’s pretty close). And even before Paris, heads of state will meet in Lima, Peru to draw up a first draft of the treaty before they go to Paris for the real thing in December. So actually, this UN Climate summit is the meeting before the meeting, before the meeting.
Two days before the UN meeting the biggest climate march of all time took place. Dubbed the People’s Climate March, nearly 400,000 of the most vibrant cross section of the human race you may ever see in one place. Grandmothers from North Carolina, tree huggers from Colorado, workers from just about every union in the City, business people, native groups, residents of small Pacific Islands, celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, politicians like Al Gore, and just simple regular people streamed through the streets of midtown to have their voices heard. Many other similar protests took place all over the world. And what they are calling for is as wide ranging as the places they come from. That’s what’s so great about it. But the prevailing demand from the movement was to replace the dominance of fossil fuel with renewable energy.
The climate change movement may actually have some momentum. Some of us are surprised by who is finally pulling his weight.