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Let’s Sum It Up – “We Need This.” Last day of COP 20

Riding the bus this morning into the “Pentagonito” (or Little Pentagon, the COP venue), I spoke to a delegate who was heading into the negotiations. I asked how he felt now that it was the last day. He sighed. I knew I had asked a loaded question. He has been in Lima working for the past three weeks, far away from home and he was tired. His answer to me, “Well…it’s hard to say.” Like many COPs before this one, expectations are high and input feels low on the final day. As Secretary of State Kerry said yesterday in his press conference, “Yes, I have been to every COP — but that’s troubling.” COPs started in 1992 (I was one year old). Now I am 23, working at Earth Day Network, and still you can hear the same arguments being rehashed at the negotiator’s table. As I heard one person say in the COP halls, countries have been in an odd race where the point is not to win. Going as slowly as possible, shouting at each other, “No! You first!” They’ve been at this race my entire lifetime. Things are happening, though. The Green Climate Fund minimum of $10 billion dollars to assist countries most affected by climate change has been met and exceeded. The US pledged $3 billion dollars. Peru was the first Latin American country to contribute, and Colombia rose to the challenge, giving the same $6 million, in effect, signaling to other nations — it’s time to anti up! Even Australia caved to international pressure. At the Global Climate Summit, a meeting of top businessmen and women in the world, I sat in the audience as CEO’s were asked, “Why wait?” The answer in most instances is, “We’re not.” Business leaders are changing their strategies because investor demands will change and they know it. As Carl Pope, special advisor to Michael Bloomberg said, “Now it’s less about who gets the burden and more about how to share the gains [of innovating for the future].” Environmentally-conscious CEO’s are reaching out to their hesitant friends, catalyzing industry’s transformation. I spoke to a youth organization that marched on Lima on Wednesday, along with indigenous communities, Lima residents, interfaith groups, and more. They braved head-on traffic when crossing six lane highways while holding up their signs to go “fossil free.” They said they felt like they were fighting for their lives on two levels; afraid of the cars flying right at them as well as trying to push back the impending threats of climate change. This is just one example of the loud calls to action by civil society groups at the COP. I had the privilege to be hosted by Religions for Peace throughout my stay, an organization committed to galvanizing all religions in the ethical mission to act on climate change. Surrounding me each morning at breakfast I heard people of faith including rabbis, Quakers, ministers and Buddhists discussing how religious groups can help make a difference. They believe we have a moral imperative to protect Creation. So yes, it can be taxing to watch negotiations stall and work themselves in circles in a time when action is critical. Sometimes I want to take some by the shoulders and say, “How don’t you get it yet? We need this.” But there is so much hope with so many entering the conversation: youth, women, faith communities, CEO’s, politicians. We still have time (not much, mind you). And though many are exhausted by the end of COP 20, we must get the job done. It’s our turn to lead. Author: Johanna Bozuwa