Thursday, December 10, 2009

COP15: Radio France interviews World Streets Editor

As part of the massive media effort underway in France in support of the Copenhagen initiative, the editor of World Streets was invited by Ann-Cécile Bras of Radio France International this morning to share his views and reactions to the COP15 process and what might come next. His principal theme: "The problem is not the problem. The problem is the 'solution'." Follow the podcast here.

* Below you have access to a podcast of the interview (in French), along with Britton's talking points shared in advance with the interviewer.
RFI, PARIS, 9 December 2009.

"Le regard d'Eric Britton sur l'environnement "
Radio France International interview of 9 December 2009

• Par Anne-Cécile Bras, "C'est pas du vent", RFI, mercredi 09 décembre 2009
• Following text from RFI program page for this date:
"Politicien américain, activiste et fondateur de plusieurs initiatives dans le domaine du développement durable, Eric Britton, réagit à l’actualité et présente son projet New Mobility Agenda, projet sur la durabilité du transport urbain."
• Podcast of interview:
• A program reference on current Britton work:
• (Note: Following are Britton talking points/notes shared in advance with interviewers)

"The problem is not the problem. The problem is the 'solution' ".

1. The effort: We must recognize the enormous efforts of the IPCC and the UN Secretariat and all involved for getting things thus far up to Copenhagen. These efforts starting in 1992 in Rio, and thus far taking the world, almost literally, or at least the nations of the UN (first signal?) in a step by step process up to today's COP15 goals.

2. The Media: The massive active participation of the media – both worldwide (of course with many exceptions) – but including the extraordinary efforts being made by the media here in France to cover the issues and events – in a balanced and often highly interesting way. (Thinking point: Role of New Media – e.g.; Twitter, Facebook, etc. As a means for communicating and organizing even in Copenhagen as the meeting moves ahead. – Power for the future?)

3. The Achievement: bringing together representatives of 192 nations for focused talks on what is, after all, a highly abstract and at best only incompletely understood set of hotly contested issues, and in the process making the city of Copenhagen the center of our planet for 11 days. This is a massive, historic accomplishment.


Keep your eyes on these in the next round:

1. Role of the NGOs – In my view they are not yet being sufficiently integrated into the core of the process.
2. Presence/absence of cities – Only a start. Efforts spearheaded by the C40 program (C40cities Climate Leadership Group, etc.
a. But not really part of the basic process. Just kind of tacked on.
b. Note active role of Denis Baupin of Paris in pushing this agenda
3. Emerging presence of poorest, most threatened nations as a shaping force (but not there yet)

1. Failure in terms of the fact that, most sadly, no " binding agreement for the post-Kyoto period" will come out of this meeting
2. This is a hard point but one that we need to stare in the eyes to figure out where we go from here.

1. Let's remember: This is not a football game (with winners and losers).
2. This is a case when everyone goes home a loser.
3. So this is the challenge; How can we build on this and turn the whole thing around.

1. Giving in to failure of COP15 -- and giving up
2. Putting technology "solutions" at the top of the list
3. Continuing along the same lines
4. So we need a game changer – what might that be?

1. The problem is not the problem. The problem is the "solution"
2. Let's build on but notably alter the solution process – specifically in terms of the kinds of people who need to be involved in figuring out what to do next
3. In the past the process has been dominated and mostly led by (a) males, (b) of a certain age, (c) in a much higher than average income bracket, who (d) are "car owner/drivers (if not in fact in their heads as "the right way to live".
4. Think about this: are they actually ready to change their own daily lives as all of us must do if our children are to live on the same planet we were born to
5. So let's change this.
6. The game-change proposal:

- Full parity in all national delegations and the basic UNFCC and IPCC and other decision making, advisory fora

o Women – Full parity at all debate and decision levels of the following critical, results-conditioning groups:

o Non-car owner/drivers (Hard to verify but still a do-able target)

o Under 35 – They are the future, so bring them in to help define it together

Many of you will tell me all the reasons why this is not possible. Perhaps also not desirable. But I know that it is possible and desirable… and necessary. The only challenge being how to get this ball rolling.

1. Yours
2. Theirs
3. Mine (– see

The solutions to the problems our gasping planet is facing will not be in the magic want of technology, nor in the long term (i.e., anything beyond 2015). They must happen now, and the instruments will be us, you and me and them, in our choices and actions in our day to day lives.

# # #

Editor's comment:

These notes were drafted in an attempt to orient the interview team on my evolving thoughts on the COP15 events and process. If you listen to the interview you will hear that some of them actually made their way into the exchanges, and in particular the three part proposal, the "building blocks" of what neither the interviewer nor I were able to render immediately into proper French: "The New Climate Deal".

Since time was short the decision was taken to leave for a later program in January – discussion of the New Mobility Agenda response to the challenges, namely: how can we organize (reorganize) our daily transportation arrangements in order to achieve those "drastic" but necessary and possible 50% reductions in the five years directly ahead.

Stay tuned.

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  1. Robert U. Ayres, Paris FranceThursday, 10 December, 2009

    Dear Eric
    I am glad you are getting some media attention, but I wish you would not be so crudely and obviously populist.

    In the first place giving all nations "full parity" makes no sense at all. Do you really think a nation-state with a population of 100,000 should have the same vote as China? If you don't mean that, what do you mean?

    Second, the problem with "under-35" populism is that (1) the people aged 0-18 are still left out, for good reasons, and the ones over 18 are a minority) and (2) most of them don't know enough to discuss sensible solutions. It is no accident that virtually all of the fanatics and terrorists in the world are under 35. Even if you limited the voters to people under 35 with PhDs in environmental science, they couln'd come up with global solutions.

    Age doesn't necessarily produce wisdom, but wisdom does require some experience and knowledge. Think about your own case.

    Robert U. Ayres, Professor Emeritus
    77305 Fontainebleau FRANCE

  2. Dear Eric,

    You note that what we need is a game changer, and ask what that may be?

    The game changer is simply to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

    At the moment I hate the Climate Change debate, and switch off when’s it’s being discussed, there's nothing but negatives, give up this, that and the other, and what do we get in return? Nothing!

    You ask us to take personal responsibility, I agree with you, but all this guilt isn't really helping, most people like to fly and like to drive, feeling guilty will make most people turn off to the whole argument, not engage them in finding alternatives.

    We need to articulate a positive vision, and I think a simple concept such as 'sharing the world's resources equitably’, is something most people could sign up to. But as the tragedy of the commons shows, an empty vision without a structure for enforcement is worthless.

    As an enforcer Personal Carbon Rations is the only solution.

    They need to be global and take into account population growth, so that having more babies is not rewarded with more rations.

    Once we have this in place, then reducing one's personal carbon footprint is actually rewarded.
    At the moment we have a situation whereby me not owning a car simply means I do not get to use much of the transport infrastructure built with my taxes, and have less mobility than people who do drive, and my parking space and space on the congested roads is probably taken by someone who drives a bigger more polluting car than I would.

    By not flying to China it's not going to stop the Saudi's pumping oil, at best all that will happen is that the demand for oil may fall very marginally, the price of a barrel will get a little cheaper, and thus the price of petrol will go down, and the end result may be that there are more and bigger cars on the road.

    However with personal carbon rations, each individual stands to directly benefit from a reduction in their consumption, then everything else falls into place, as who would want to waste a limited resource driving to the shops, when they could cycle for nothing, and if it is too dangerous to cycle then the government will have a large number of voters demanding improvements.

    The problem here is that virtually nobody outside of the campaign circles has even heard of this idea, and when it is about the only real solution going that's a problem!

    I should doubt Mayer Hillman has sold more than 10,000 copies of his book, we and he needs a media partner.

    All the best,
    Rory McMullan


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