Bringing the Paris climate talks home

11/25/2015

Representatives from 195 countries will soon gather in Paris to try to reach agreements to deal with climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping nations shift to low-carbon economies. These are the long-awaited climate talks, but because of the failure of previous confabs, many of us have lost heart. Will this one be different?  

The U.N. has been hosting international talks about climate change since 1992. For the first time, the goal is to achieve a legally binding and enforceable agreement by all 195 nations. To be effective, the agreement must set targets to reduce every country’s greenhouse gas emissions enough to stop average world temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (about 4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Most scientists believe holding this line is critical to prevent catastrophic climate change. 

Although only national governments will be at the table for the treaty talks, at least half of the almost 50,000 participants will be representatives of cities, states—including California—and provinces around the world. There will also be representatives of community-based organizations already taking concrete action about climate change.  

Among them will be Marin’s own locally-controlled not-for-profit power authority, Marin Clean Energy. Its C.E.O., Dawn Weisz, will be joining Richmond mayor Tom Butt and Shawn Marshall of LEAN Energy US in several presentations about how community choice aggregation programs like M.C.E. are promoting renewable energy and changing the industry in the United States. Communities around the world want to know how they can do that, too. 

The work and leadership of community organizations and local governments may be more important than the international agreements—if any are reached. Marin Clean Energy’s message is simple: using C.C.A. programs to increase the purchase of renewable energy reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the production of electricity from fossil fuels. It is the same message M.C.E. has been sending out right here at home. 

The Paris talks may seem far away, but that’s not so. We know what climate change can mean right here in West Marin: sea-level rise will endanger our homes, businesses and roads; drought will cause suffering for our wildlife, farmers and ranchers; wildfires can destroy our communities and landscape. Each one of us can help reach the goals of the Paris climate talks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions right here at home by supporting M.C.E.’s renewable energy programs.

If you haven’t yet signed up for the Deep Green option of 100 percent renewable energy, go straight to the M.C.E. website—mcecleanenergy.org—and get on board. Or, you could go for 100 percent local solar power, a way of supporting locally generated solar. If you aren’t sure whether you are signed up for Deep Green, call (888) 632.3674 and speak to a live person, or take a look at the very last page of your PG&E bill under “Details of Electric Generation Charges.” (PG&E still sends bills and distributes power to M.C.E. customers.)  

The Paris climate talks represent a remarkable opportunity for us to think globally and act locally—to take heart and take action by connecting what’s happening internationally with local efforts worthy of recognition and support. In Margaret Mead’s well-worn words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 

Mary Morgan, a Point Reyes Station resident, and Kris Brown, an Inverness resident, are members of Mainstreet Moms, a West Marin citizen organization that advocates for the environment, election integrity and our children.