Paris: The city of love, now also the city where a major step towards a sustainable future was made. On December 12th, 195 United Nations member states agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “as soon as possible” and do their best to limit global warming “to well below 2 degrees C”.
Exceptional? Maybe. Ambitious? Not really. What is needed from a scientific viewpoint? Not even close. Still, we might look back at the Paris Agreement as the turning point in the history of the human degradation of the planet. It offers hope, and more than climate change, hope is something humans can relate to.
The Paris Agreement is the starting point. It offers a base from where its parties must strengthen their ambitions for emission cuts every five years. From this ground floor, the sky is the limit. This sky is clean, offering sunrays and wind for renewable energy.
Countries and businesses adjusting for this transition will be the winners of tomorrow. The future is green, and businesses taking this step sooner rather than later will benefit from this. Businesses remaining in the fossil fuel age will loose.
As always when it comes to changes, some players are opposing this transition. The Norwegian Oil Industry Association, for example, is using scaremongering to create the misperception that Norway should be raised above the global GHG emission cuts. However, burying one’s head in the sand will only backfire, as the industry later down the line will see their economic revenues drop due to reduced demand in a world that is finally making the transition. In Norway, the question thus is whether the current conservative government will pick up the baton from the then Minister of Climate and Environment Tine Sundtoft at COP21. She worked hard to get all parties to sign the agreement in Paris, but will probably have had a bigger challenge doing the same within her own government.
What about Pole to Paris then? Our ten passionate, young team members and numerous volunteers gave it all. The team’s two leading figures – Dan and myself – also picked up more severe injuries as we drew close to the finish line. We nonetheless made it to the Eiffel Tower December 4th, where team members Oria (who had joined in the run since Cambridge) and Jeff, family, friends and journalists met us. Over the following week, we took part in three events at COP21. There, we shared our experiences from the 10,000 km long Southern Cycle from Christchurch, New Zealand and 2,500 km long Northern Run from Tromsø, Norway, while also highlighting the stories we collected from people along the way. These are the people who directly depend on the natural resources and thus experience climate changes first-hand. These are the people whose future depends on our ability to build on the Paris Agreement.
As for them, the future for Pole to Paris is rather uncertain. Our team worked simply out of conviction and passion – a desire to be the change we wanted to see in this world. However, idealism has its price, and it is hard to make a living out of running or biking and doing climate outreach.
This is where I am at too – at a cross point. What is for certain, nevertheless, is that I have gotten unique experiences from Pole to Paris. I got to breathe fresh air, see majestic landscapes, use my own body as my only engine, while meeting and connecting with wonderful people – all this by combining two of my passions: running and talking about climate science.
My run to Paris might be over, but the run for the implementation of the Paris Agreement just started. Time will show whether I will use running or business shoes.