With the main negotiations getting bogged down in such issues as whether to include a 1.5℃ target along with the accepted 2℃ goal (St Lucia and small island states say yes; Saudi Arabia and oil-exporting countries say no), much of the interest is found at the many side events going on at the same time.
One of them was today’s appearance by Al Gore – climate campaigner, former US vice-president, and winner of a Nobel Peace Prize shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Changing to a low-carbon economy is a daunting prospect,” he told a packed audience, before posing three questions:
Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?
“Yes” he said to the first, because our energy supply, food supply, transport systems and forests are all under various levels of stress and increasing risks.
“Yes” to the second, as improved energy efficiency continues and the shift to renewable energy is moving fast. In many cases, renewables are now competing on cost with fossil fuels – not just for electricity but also for heating and transport.
And he said the answer to “Will we change?” will be known when the final text from the Paris meeting is agreed at the end of next week – only then will businesses and investors know where they stand.
“Investors now need to look closely at investing in fossil fuel companies else they may be left with stranded assets because much of the known coal, oil and gas reserves have to be left in the ground or under the sea,” Gore said. “Now is the time to consider divestment of such investments.”
This was supported in the ensuing panel discussion, in which one speaker made the point that the composition of company boards will have to change to accommodate “climate-comprehending members”, and not just bankers and lawyers.
And a question from the floor from a member of the World Council of Churches, which includes some major investors, asked if progress towards this level of understanding is happening rapidly enough.
Gore’s earlier closing statement – “the will to act is a renewable resource in itself” – summed up the potential well.