COP21 Journal, Day 0: Coming to Paris to Secure a Livable World

The CCL team at work in Paris on Sunday evening.

The CCL team at work in Paris on Sunday evening.

It’s the day before the COP21 is scheduled to open, and I arrive in Paris on a flight that is mostly empty. In the 21 seats across three rows, including my own seat, there are 5 of us. Substantially fewer people are flying to Paris, due to the recent attacks. Much of our team is already in Paris, preparing for the work of tracking, and contributing to the most important climate negotiations in a generation.

COP21 venueThe work to be done is so significant, and the time so short, that the ADP — the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which includes all of the nations that are Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — is opening its business this evening, 17 hours ahead of schedule.

As I fly into Paris, I have a strong feeling that there is something special about the group of people gathering, to work for a better outcome for the world. These people are coming to a heightened security zone, with France under a state of emergency, because they know their presence can make the process of deciding our collective future smarter, and more just.

40,000 people are expected to fill both the negotiating venue and the civil society village, where many side events, policy discussions, and strategy sessions, will take place.

Our team will be doing several things in Paris:

  • Tracking the negotiations;
  • Contributing, by meeting with negotiators;
  • Proposing language for efficient, effective, equitable carbon pricing;
  • Joining the adoption of the Work Program for the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition;
  • Reporting on the entire process through the Citizens’ Voice project;
  • Supporting the work of partner organizations;
  • Launching the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network, on Dec. 2;
  • Co-hosting a High-Level Dialogue to Accelerate Climate Action, on Dec. 7;

To name just a few priorities.

The day has been a chaotic, upbeat, and emotional, confluence of people, voices, and projects. The Citizens’ Voice team hit the ground running, and has already accumulated a strong base of early content from people eager to see the Paris process succeed. You can follow their work at

Our Workstreams are now active and will be updating delegates and policy advocates daily on issues ranging from carbon pricing to human health, oceans, and the polar regions. The aim is to fill in gaps in the standard policy discussion and give citizens and stakeholders a way to play a role in shaping the debate. You can follow the Workstreams at

We had our first nightly team meeting, to work on priorities, best practices (see photo at top).

For me, arrival in Paris has been the culmination of a collective effort, over more than 14 months, to build a new kind of citizen engagement strategy. We are fortunate to have so many intrepid and committed souls, willing to travel here at their own expense in this difficult moment, with all of the pressures telling them not to, so that we can channel their energies into making the Paris process that much smarter, stronger, and more inventive.

Joe Robertson is Global Strategy Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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.