CCL at COP21, Day 1: Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition launches

The CCL team in Paris for COP21.

The CCL team in Paris for COP21.

CCL at COP21, Day 1: Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition launches

By Peter Joseph

Don’t worry, we stayed clear of the tear gas yesterday in Paris. Evidently the disturbance was provoked by a small number of masked young men in black, likely provocateurs, after a peaceful “human chain” took place in lieu of the cancelled massive protest. The police overreacted, and, true to form, the media gobbled it up. Twenty CCLers  were safely in a cafe sipping hot chocolate, tea and vin rouge.

Memorials in Paris

Makeshift memorials in Paris are a reminder of the terrorist attacks that happened only two weeks ago. (Photo by Jessica Langerman)

This morning, heads of state gathered at the conference center, Le Bourget, a half hour metro ride from central Paris. President Obama spoke passionately, using words similar to his UN speech in September, 2009 just ahead of Copenhagen, words that also echoed those of President George H.W. Bush in 1992 at the Rio Summit. Hopes are high that COP21 will be more successful than Copenhagen. Even with the terror attacks of just two weeks ago, the wind is at our backs.

Civil society events begin tomorrow. We’ll be there along with thousands of others from all over the world. CCL has at least 30 people here, many young (refreshing!).  For now, we’re holed up in a cozy apartment in Le Marais, drinking wonderful instant coffee, eating buttery croissants, watching the live stream from the UN and planning which of the many side events taking place over the next two weeks to attend. We’re focused on carbon pricing events (there aren’t many).

While the mood of this climate change conference, one of the last off ramps on the Highway to Hell, is upbeat, expectations have been dampened by the announcement that carbon pricing is “off the menu (inactive link),” despite the loud calls from so many. Without a price signal, it’s hard to see how the job gets done. Both UN officials and Joe Robertson have explained why carbon pricing is not a priority in the text of the agreement. The reasons seem logical enough in light of the difficulties inherent in bringing 196 countries to consensus.  Their goals are lofty, the process painstaking. But if the UN can’t do it quickly, the U.S. must take the lead, make a few deals with other major economies, figure out how to make poor countries whole, and get on with it. That is CCL’s mission: carbon fee, dividend and duty.

Late today, 20 CCL members gathered again in our cozy apartment to download the day and continue to plan the week. Joe led the meeting off with the exciting news about the launch of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), which included the official adoption of a work plan to begin next year. The agreed mission is to build carbon pricing into every country’s climate action strategy by 2020. An interesting aspect of the CPLC is that all participants are treated as equals, which means someone like Mark Reynolds could be at the table with Angela Merkel. And for the first time, international efforts to price carbon openly embrace all serious options, including revenue-neutral carbon taxes with revenue returned to the publicThe German environment minister said, “Carbon pricing is the most tasty piece of the cake of transformative climate solutions.”

You can read about current actions promoting carbon pricing at COP21:

  • Carbon pricing workstream letter calling for, Efficient, Effective and Equitable carbon pricing.This is being circulated to delegates here at COP21 by CCL members.
  • The Carbon Tax Center’s  statement on the need for a carbon tax, signed by numerous high level economists, nobel prize winners and other distinguished individuals, including Sec. Shultz and Mark Reynolds.
  • Hansen’s latest plea for a carbon tax over cap and trade. This follows his recent essay, “The Imperative of Carbon Fee and Dividend.”
  • Sunday’s NYT essayTales of a Warmer Planet, describing what humanity has already bought for the next thousand years. Brace yourself.
  • Paris Climate Talks Avoid Scientists’ Idea of ‘Carbon Budget’. How could this be? I thought we were beyond science denial. This just reinforces the need to engage the economy, as national pledges, promises, intentions, while honorable, won’t be able to fight the rip tide of free carbon emissions, a rigged market and thus artificially low fossil fuel prices.

If you’d like to follow events, go to Citizens Climate Network. The next two weeks will be interesting and engaging. All the CCL activists here and their support teams at home will be hard at work.

Our meeting ended at 11 p.m. on an high note. Most everybody had been up late into the night before, and we were running on fumes and coffee. But we now have a focus for the next two weeks where we didn’t yesterday: capitalize on the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s launch, talk up carbon pricing wherever possible, and convince as many, both on the outside and on the inside of the official talks, that carbon pricing is not only essential, but potentially healthy. The medicine for our ills is both effective and tastes good.

Peter Joseph is the group leader of the Marin County CCL chapter.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.