How We Can Help Turn the Promises of the Paris Agreement into Reality: Reflections from our time in Marrakech
This time last year the world celebrated the historic Paris Agreement. Three hundred and sixty five days later, the Agreement has come into force, the COP of Action has come and gone, and the President-Elect of the world’s largest polluter per capita has breathed new life into climate change denialism.
The Paris Agreement is in effect. But it may not be enough if we don’t push the envelope and avoid being sidestepped by short term distractions.
The reality is that current pledges set the global mean temperature to rise by 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, well above Paris’ goal to keep warming below 2 degrees.
The accord is a great start, but much more is needed with the world reaching a critical tipping point in the coming years. We can criticize it all we want and plan for the next big climate accord of the future, but it has never been more important to take a step back and make the best of what we can do right now.
We recently travelled to Marrakech for the annual UNFCCC Conference of Parties to participate in a cleantech mission organized by the Coalition of Young Chambers of Commerce of Quebec. One thing is abundantly clear having been in attendance at COP22 in Marrakech: a massive global force is being mobilized to act on climate change, and with good reason. Our planet is in peril.
With every day that we go about business as usual, we are baking in severe, pervasive and irreversible damage, moving us further from the widely accepted target of no more than 2 degrees celsius of global mean warming above pre-industrial levels.
Contrary to popular misconception, climate change is not a niche environmental issue. It’s repercussions permeate into every aspect of the global economy.
The result of the U.S. presidential election certainly loomed over the COP22 proceedings. While climate change denialism may have received a breath of life from the new leader of a powerful country, the unanimously substantiated threat of climate change is and will remain omnipresent. The effects of climate change do not stop at the borders of nations: they permeate everywhere.
The choice to embrace or renege the Paris Agreement and it’s vision for a sustainable, low-carbon economy has never been more stark. Businesses and nations face the choice to build the capabilities and competencies for the world that awaits us, or get left behind.
This dichotomy was experienced first hand as we were whisked in, around, and over the Atlas mountains en route from Marrakech to MASEN’s NOOR solar station in the desertic region of Ouarzazate, the crown jewel of Morocco’s ambitious transition to a clean economy. The journey along the serpentine Tizi’n’Tichka road is nauseating on an ordinary day; however, this sentiment was amplified by the live stream of the U.S president-elects voice playing loudly on the sound system of our COP22 minibus minutes after the results were made official, as the unsettling reality set in that this individual would rule the world’s biggest polluter per capita on the premise that climate change is a hoax.
True as that may be, those concerns were quickly put into perspective once arrived at the state-of-the-art MASEN facility.
With over 580MW of solar power coming online in the next two years on the back of the the NOOR solar station alone, it became obvious that Morocco is positioning itself to be a global center of excellence in renewable energies, along with all the benefits and challenges that come with it, like managing supply, demand and storage in real time. Global economies will inevitably seek Moroccan expertise to help them do the same in a way that is strikingly similar to our home province of Quebec, where capabilities and competencies built over more than 50 years in hydroelectric power generation continue to play a vital role in our economy as both a local and exportable renewable energy asset.
Suddenly, the U.S President-elect’s aim to exploit domestic coal and oil resources rang incredibly shortsighted and foolish — not to mention the promise of restoring millions of local manufacturing jobs when widespread automation is on the near horizon (see what’s already happening at Elon Musk’s Tesla assembly line).
We are all co-creators in our future. While tempting to say that the future rewards those that see it coming, the reality is that the future doesn’t care.
Either you adapt and evolve, or you get left behind.
This notion is as true for Darwin’s finches as it is for the businesses, cities and nations of our world.
With more than half of the global population under the age of 30, and 90% of these individuals living in the developing world, revolutions in technology allowing unprecedented access to information and connectivity will prove to be a powerful driver of change. Combined with rapid urbanization and the stresses posed notably by the realities of climate change, we can begin to imagine the future our world is converging toward.
While many have lamented that there is an app for just about everything except maybe a solution to climate change, we beg to differ. We are fortunate to live in a time when mobile apps can be used to leverage individual actions for mass scale impact. They can help us to solve some of society’s largest problems, while at the same time providing us with entertainment and financial savings.
At over $36.9 billion dollars in revenues in 2016, mobile gaming is beginning to dominate the digital world as one of the most “powerful and widespread ways that human beings interact, communicate, and have fun.”
ENERj builds off of this power of gamification, using it as the the central mechanism to drive changes in behavior by providing users with a fun and innovative way to keep track of their energy usage and to generate savings. ENERj has the power to integrate every single citizen into a reinforcing network of people combatting climate change through small, incremental changes to their daily actions.
While products of technology were the star of the 12,000 square foot Innovation Zone open to the public at COP22, and often the most popular and publicized answer to our climate change woes, our visits to remote villages in Tidili Mesfioua and the high Atlas Mountains are a sobering reminder that our battle against climate change is very much a social one. Our experience in these communities would suggest that we have a lot of room for inspiration in our quest to be more resourceful and efficient. The developed world needs to take a hard look in the mirror, while the developing world needs to avoid making the same mistakes made by the developed world. Collectively, we need to challenge our consumption habits.
As individuals in developed countries, we waste tons of energy each and every day. But we don’t need to have every light on in the house, or have the TV blaring in the background 24/7. The biggest, and easiest, step we can take in working towards a cleaner future is to minimize and ultimately eliminate our wasteful habits.
We can leverage technology to affect mass scale social change by nudging individual actors to consume more responsibly with the power of mobile phones and the proliferation of accessible and widespread data. We can realize this change organically by making it fun and social, inspiring ourselves by the likes of Facebook and Pokemon Go.
True to the COP22 motto: Together we have the power to act. At this pivotal moment in history, we have the opportunity to embrace the future or be the victim of our own ignorance, a sad fate considering our unprecedented access to information.
Though the Paris Agreement may not be enough to save our fated planet, ENERj can help us take action on climate change to the next level. Learn more about how you can be part of this driving force at www.enerj.co.