Tag Archives: COP21

UN Climate Summits  Stern: “Worldwide buy-in is based on the notion that countries can make their own decisions.”

Todd Stern is President Obama's top adviser on climate the and U.S.'s  leadneogiator at COP21.

Todd Stern is President Obama’s top adviser on climate the and U.S.’s leadneogiator at COP21. Photo by Justin Catanoso.

Todd Stern has one difficult job. As President Obama’s top adviser on climate change, and the lead negotiator for the U.S. during the last seven UN climate summits, he is either marked as hero or villain, depending on what part of the world you’re from.

Yes, he represents the richest country on earth, one which could do more to alleviate the early ravages of climate changes in various parts of the globe. But it’s actually doing less than Norway. As a leader in the world’s lone superpower, he could exercise more influence on the proposed accord any time he chooses. But he knows that’s a sucker’s game, and never yields desirable outcomes.

Instead, Stern — even-tempered, soft-spoken, chummy with many long-time climate-change journalists — chooses to be clear, candid and concise. “Here’s what I can tell you; here’s what I can’t. Next question.”

Today he reminded the world’s media that the pledges of 196 countries to reduce their carbon emissions are just that — pledges, promises, not legally binding. Countries can renege, cheat or simply ignore what they said they would do. But for the world’s largest countries, the U.S. among them, transparency will be binding: strict inventories of emissions, clear reporting on actions, always open to outside review. The same strict rules will not, he said, apply to developing countries who simply don’t have the tools for such accounting.  But they will be nudged in that direction, with great assistance.

Meanwhile, Stern said, there is no reason to think that an accord won’t be struck by weeks’ end, the first time in history that all the nation’s on earth will agree to reduce their carbon emissions to slow the rate of global warming. Here’s why he’s optimistic: “Worldwide buy-in is based on the notion that countries can make their own decisions.”

In a world that suffers gravely from a lack of trust, that notion of trust that Stern describes might just end up saving the planet in the long run.

Triad BizUN Climate Summits  Triad Business Journal: VF official at UN climate summit: North Carolina is missing out on renewable energy opportunities


Business panel discussion at the US Pavilion. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Business panel discussion at the US Pavilion. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Triad Business Journal, where I was executive editor from 1998 to 2011, posted my first story from Paris and COP21. The story is here.

Here’s an excerpt:  The business leaders’ message was consistent and clear: Climate change in the form of drought, more frequent and erratic storms of greater intensity, and rising sea levels, is costing them millions, disrupting their supply chains and damaging their investments. Mostly, though, they each stressed the economic opportunities lost in not transitioning more aggressively to renewable energy sources.

Environment  UN’s Ban Ki-moon: “This is no Plan B because there is no planet B”

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This Monday afternoon, Dec. 7, 2016, on the first day of the final week of the 21st UN climate summit, I slipped into a press conference just as Ban Ki-moon,  the UN general secretary, was answering a question of great interest to me — the intersection of faith and climate change. Here’s what he said:

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for his clear moral leadership on this issue with the document he released in June (the papal encyclical Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home). I have spoken with him about this and greatly appreciate his efforts in support of the environment.

“It’s important to realize that climate change has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with humanity. We have to show some wisdom. Not just wisdom, but common sense. We have to live harmoniously with nature. Nature does not negotiate with human beings. We have to adjust to nature. That’s our only choice.

“We have to do what science tells us. Climate change is caused by human behavior. It only follows that humans have to change their behavior. As you know, we don’t hear many skeptics any longer. Even so, faith leaders have a role to play in convincing the remaining skeptics that climate change is real, and with faith leaders, we must all act and work as one.

“We have only one planet. There is no Plan B because there is no planet B.”



Environment  Gov. Jerry Brown warns COP21 crowd in Paris of “Eve of Destruction”

California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Global Landscape Forum, part of COP21 in Paris. Photo by Justin Catanoso

California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Global Landscape Forum, part of COP21 in Paris. Photo by Justin Catanoso

California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose distinctive voice I recognized as I entered late the packed hall in which he was speaking, was trying to remember a song from the 1960s. “I think it’s called ‘Eve of Destruction.’ Can’t remember who sang it, but I still like it. You should listen to it. It’s perfect for today.” (The song was written in 1964 by P.F. Sloan and performed by Barry McGuire, whoever the hell they were…)

Brown was a speaker today, Dec. 6, 2015, at the Global Landscape Forum, a side event of panel discussions and speeches about the importance of land use policy and forest preservation. Brown’s panel was called: “Science-policy exchange — Big ideas to connect landscapes, climate and development.”

Brown is a leftie, hippie-type who dated folk singer Linda Ronstadt in the 1970s when he was first California governor, and ran for president in 1980 as Gov. Moonbeam. He has since become the most mature, liberal, effective and realistic governor in America. Now in his 70s, he speaks his mind, and doesn’t give a darn much what people think. Why should he? When it comes to environmental protection and innovation, California leads the nation, if not the world.

“Not one thing is going to do it,” Brown told the crowd of more than 1,500, when it comes to keeping global warming under 2 degrees C by 2100. “It’s all of it together. This conference (COP21) is one of the biggest things for climate change ever. Every country is involved. Every country is pledging to do something. Let’s get that settled and then start pushing for more.

“The challenge will be relentless. But the fact that you’re here says a lot. Don’t get tired. Don’t lose heart. Don’t get excited about something else. This is it. But it’s just the beginning. It’s a lifetime challenge and task, if we really want to save the planet. And in that, I join you.”

Environment  WGHP Fox 8 TV — Talking with anchor Neill McNeil about the Paris climate summit


One third of the Peruvian population — 9 million people — live in Lima. Problem is, Lima is a desert. It does not rain there. At all. Lima depends on glacier melt for the sprawling city’s drinking water. Yet those Andean glaciers have shrunk by 30 percent due to global warming. On the evening of Dec. 1, 2015, the Triad’s top news anchor invited me on WGHP-TV to talk about the UN climate summit in Paris, I was more than happy to do so.

Environment  Mongabay: Paris climate meeting begins in optimism; REDD+ part of solution?


  • Working for mongabay.com is such a pleasure. I have this great editor in Vermont, Glenn Scherer. He knows the issues cold. He make a good sentence great. He finds amazing photos to run with my stories. This is my last pre-COP21 story. The next one will be from Paris. Here’s Glenn’s summary:
  • Each nation participating in COP21 has made its own, self-determined commitment to the amount of carbon emissions it can trim from its economy.
  • Unfortunately, the total carbon commitments by all nations falls roughly 50% short of the cuts needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.
  • REDD+, a policy that allows industrial nations to keep burning fossil fuels while paying developing countries to preserve forests, may be part of the solution, though some argue it lacks the monitoring mechanisms needed to prevent cheating.

Environment  News & Observer: UN climate change summit could bring first progress in years

On the eve of the 21st United Nations climate summit in Paris, France — a city in which I will arrive on Friday morning, Dec. 4, the News & Observer of Raleigh runs on its Sunday front page a story of mine regarding what’s at stake for the talks and what obstacles lie ahead to meet carbon emissions target to slow the rate of global warming.

The story also appeared in the Charlotte Observer, and likely other McClatchy newspapers in the chain. John Knox, a Wake Forest law professor and special UN representative on climate change and human rights, was a key source.

Wake Forest University law professor John Knox is the United Nation’s special representative on climate change and human rights. He will be in Paris this week for the international climate summit.

Environment  News & Record: Commentary — Pope may influence climate talks

N&R opinion page photo LRG

I was a staff writer for the News & Record of Greensboro from April 1987 to April 1998 — 11 years. When I decided to take the job as executive editor of a new weekly newspaper in town, The Business Journal, I was asked to leave the paper immediately, even though I was prepared to give at least four weeks notice.  Today, Nov. 29, 2015, I have my first byline in my old daily newspaper in 17 years. It’s a commentary on the UN climate summit in Paris, France, which I will cover for mongabay.com.

Environment  Mongabay.com: Catholic bishops ask for binding, transformative COP21 climate treaty

indonesia-woman-and-childIndonesia on fire, October 16, 2015. An image posted on Twitter purporting to show the smoke-choked city of Palangkaraya. Damages from the record wildfires has already topped US $30 billion; acrid smoke has sickened half a million people. “This is my urgent call… Guarantee the future of Oceania. Change society to a low-carbon lifestyle,” said Monsignor John Ribat, President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania and the Archbishop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Glenn Scherer, my talented editor at mongabay.com found this photo to run with a breaking news story I wrote for the web site on Oct. 27, 2015. Jim Yardley, my friend and New York Times bureau chief in Rome, let me know about an important Vatican press conference that would be streamed live on Oct. 26 and that I should “cover” from my office at Wake Forest.  Amazingly, I did. I split my screen with the Vatican’s YouTube channel on one half, and a Word doc for notes on the other. As Glenn’s cutline points out, the bishops call for a binding, transformative agreement at COP21 in Paris in December is critical.  I made my 6 p.m. deadline, Gleen edited it expertly and filled it in with amazing photos. The story is here.

On Nov. 5, 2015, my 56th birthday, I received this gift from the United Nation’s Council on Climate Change (UNFCCC):

“You have been successfully registered for the UNFCCC session Twentyfirst Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) and the eleventh Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP11).”