Your Environment Update for December 3, 2015

  • Pittsburgh filmmaker Mark Dixon is in Paris this week covering the United Nations climate summit. Photo: Reid Frazier

December 3, 2015

World Leaders Gather in Paris for Global Climate Talks

This week, the United Nations climate summit continues in Paris, and it seems likely there will be a new agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Talks like these have mostly stalled since the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate agreement which was signed in 1997. One signal that this time might be different—an unprecedented number of world leaders, 150 of them, showed up for this week’s conference. U.S. President Barack Obama pointed to Alaska’s melting glaciers as a reason to make these negotiations a success.

“What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it,” Obama said.

French President François Hollande thanked the world for support in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris. But he said children don’t just need to be free from terrorism; they also need an unspoiled planet. England’s Prince Charles, months after the birth of his second grandchild, echoed that sentiment.

“So I can only urge you to think of your grandchildren as I think of mine and of those billions of people without a voice,” he said.

The stakes for these climate talks are particularly high for island nations. Christopher Loeak, President of the Marshall Islands, said his country is disappearing into the rising waters of the Pacific Ocean.

“Everything I know and everyone I love is in the hands of all of us gathered here today,” Loeak said.

While an agreement seems likely in Paris, huge questions remain about how strong and ambitious it will be.

Reporting by Steve Curwood, Living on Earth

Pittsburgh Filmmaker in Paris for UN Climate Talks

Not all the action at the the UN climate conference is happening at the negotiating table. Pittsburgh filmmaker Mark Dixon has spent years following past UN climate change meetings from afar. This year, he decided to pull the trigger and go to Paris.

But like many citizens attending the talks, Dixon needed a little help punching his ticket to Paris. A few months ago, a chance meeting with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at a restaurant got the ball rolling. The mayor told Dixon, if he paid his own way, he could represent the city of Pittsburgh at the UN climate conference earlier this year in Lyons, France—a kind of warmup event to Paris.

“I said, ‘Sure, let’s go for it.’ I didn’t know where I’d get the money, but I figured it was too good an opportunity to pass up,” Dixon says.

So to come up with the $2,000 it would cost to go to Lyons, Dixon started a GoFundMe campaign. The campaign eventually raised enough for Dixon to travel to Paris this week as well. While there, he’s observing the meetings, making web videos and writing blog posts about what he sees.

Reporting by Reid Frazier