10 Things The Writers Of The Paris Agreement Want You To Do About Climate Change

Former UN Executive Secretary By Christiana Figueres
Former UN Executive Secretary
Christiana Figueres is an internationally recognized leader on climate change. She was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2010-2016.
10 Things The Writers of the Paris Agreement Want You To Know About Climate Change

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Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac were two key negotiators for the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. Five years later, their new book The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis outlines what everyday people can do to work toward the brighter future the agreement envisioned. In this except, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac list 10 climate-friendly actions we should all be taking.

None of us has complete control over which path the world ultimately chooses to take and which future will be ours. But each of us individually can engage in these 10 action areas, giving direction to the transformation toward a regenerative world:

1. Let go of the old world.

Now is the time to make profound shifts in how we live, work, and relate to one another. To be successful, we need to make a series of intentional moves. The first of these is to honor the past, then let it go. Focus on where you're going, not on where you've been. Cultivate your constructive vision for the future, and hold on to it, come what may. When you can see where you're going, you won't be so afraid of losing your grip on the past.


2. Face your grief, but hold a vision for the future.

The winters, springs, summers, and autumns, the rainy and dry seasons that we remember will not be those that our children and their children will enjoy. It's rare today to find someone over 50 who isn't conscious that the weather patterns that defined their childhoods are being quickly and drastically altered.

We cannot hide from the grief that flows from the loss of biodiversity and impoverished lives of future generations. We have to feel the full force of this new reality in our bones. There is a power to consciously bearing witness to all that is unfolding without turning away, and counterintuitively, you may actually feel better about the situation when you deeply accept the reality of it.

3. Defend the truth.

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The fabric of the scientific method is fraying. Objectivity is under attack. Some political leaders have chosen to part company with objective reality. The rise of social media has afforded these leaders ample opportunity to obscure facts. We all have an urgent responsibility to recognize and defend such an attack on truth because if it persists, our small window of opportunity to turn back the tide on the climate crisis will be lost forever.


4. See yourself as a citizen—not a consumer.

Consumerism traps us into thinking we can purchase personality. Moreover, it eats up our mental space and creates a constricted view of the world, one in which our value and identity are built upon the proliferation of disposable waste. Psychological studies have shown that mass consumption creates a bigger and bigger hole in our lives that we keep trying to fill. As we consciously or unconsciously attempt to consolidate our sense of identity through curated buying habits, we drive the engine of mass consumption faster and faster, bringing ourselves ever closer to the edge of disaster.

Despite all the ways culture is pushing us in the direction of blind consumerism, we can start to intentionally push back. We can develop the mental discipline to resist the imperatives of consumerism. We can change our consumption habits, and vote with our money for products that are sustainable.

5. Move beyond fossil fuels.

Reducing flying is likely to have the biggest impact if you live in a wealthy country. You might decide never to set foot on a plane again, and if you do, we applaud and celebrate you. But in reality, that may not be possible for you today, but you can still make a contribution. You can commit to not flying for holidays or to taking the train to places within, say, 500 miles of your home. You might commit to taking only a certain number of fights per year or to taking meetings via videoconferencing.


6. Reforest the Earth.

Almost all tropical deforestation is driven by demand for four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil, and wood. Too many ingredients in the products we consume every day come from deforested land. It's easy to forget how much power we all have if we choose to use it. If a company is engaging in destructive land practices, nongovernmental organizations will work to make that fact clear to customers. As that happens, you can remove your consent from that company by refusing to buy its products.

7. Invest in a clean economy.

This new economic model will need better policies and strong institutions so that the great market forces of investment and entrepreneurialism can work toward regeneration instead of extraction. Divesting from the past and reinvesting in the future can be done right now. If you have a pension fund or savings, find out where your money is invested. Do not underestimate the power of the default option in defined pension schemes—if you work for a company that has such a scheme, request that it shift it away from fossil fuels.


8. Use technology responsibly.

Evolving new technologies have enormous potential for delivering emissions reductions. We must embrace them carefully but rapidly and not rely on them as a silver bullet. As we grow more comfortable with machines being part of our lives, we will need to use technology responsibly, mindful of its power and influence, and ensure that proper governance systems are in place.

9. Build gender equality.

We must ensure that decision making at all levels of society involves increasing numbers of women because when women lead, good things happen.


10. Engage in politics.

Finally, the action that we feel is ultimately the most important. Democracies are threatened by the climate crisis and must evolve to meet the challenge. In order to help them do so, we all need to actively participate.

Now is the time for us to participate—in our schools, businesses, communities, towns, and countries—to ensure that the battle to survive the climate crisis becomes the biggest political movement in history. It is not about changing governments or political leaders. It is about waging sustained political action and engagement. The ingredients to achieve our goal are ripe. We have huge momentum with millions of people on the streets calling for change. Corporations, cities, investors, and governments all over the world are taking highly sophisticated and coordinated action toward a 1.5-degree-Celsius future and are open and listening to the calls of emergency from the streets.

If democracy is to survive and thrive into the 21st century, climate change is the one big test that it cannot fail.

This piece was co-written by Tom Rivett-Carnac.

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