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Tenth Day at COP21
09/12 - 2015

Tenth Day at COP21

WHAT: Solar Impulse pilots and founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are at the Paris Climate Conference COP21!

WHY: To promote clean technologies and use Solar Impulse as an example to help reach an agreement at COP21.

HOW: By presenting a list of concrete solutions you can find here.

WTF: A small part of the team is there to cover from the inside. Follow the adventures of Solar Agents 001 and 002 from Day 1.

TLDR: Bertrand Piccard discusses negotiations with Laurent Fabius, John Kerry defines climate change as the most extraordinary market opportunity in history, The draft of the agreement is presented, François Hollande visits the Grand Palais and the Solar Impulse model

 

After reading their latest reports, M is a little worried that Agents 001 and 002 may be planning something in their own corner. What? He doesn’t know, but he has a bad feeling, and is rarely mistaken. He thus decides to send Q, head of the R&D division and renowned geek, to spy on them for a day.  

Q turns on the recorder in his pocket, positions the microphone under his shirt, and tries to look as unsuspicious as possible.

I’ve just arrived on the site of the Bourget and the place is swarming with people. It makes me slightly dizzy.

 

If I could scan what’s going on in their little heads I imagine I would find the recurrent anticipation of the draft agreement which will be presented today at 1 pm. As planned, Bertrand Piccard is arriving with Agents 001 and 002.

Q lets them pass by before following in their footsteps. He takes care of staying a couple of meters behind.

They’re entering a room and heading straight towards Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister and President of COP21. They all shake hands and Piccard sits down with him. They begin discussing the Paris negotiations and Piccard asks how he and his team can help the negotiators. “You’re already immensely helping. By inspiring people with the Solar Impulse adventure and by showing that you have technologies than we can use now to tackle climate change”, answers Fabius.

 

Nothing particular concerning the agents. Agent 001 is furiously typing on his phone, taking notes I imagine, while Agent 002 is standing in a corner and paying close attention to the conversation. I wonder what’s going on in that brain of his. I’m not letting him out of my sight.

Getting back to the main characters of the scene, Fabius is saying that commitment in the private sector is already a done deal, and that what we now need is an intergovernmental agreement. He seems rather positive about the turnout, considering that 185 countries have pledged to reduce their pollution. They represent 96% of global carbon emissions, compared to 15% for the Kyoto protocol. Let me calculate… a 81% increase in 18 years. I like how those numbers mirror each other.

They’re getting up and shaking hands again. Fabius asks Piccard to continue focusing on solutions and being so enthusiastic. I quote: “The people and the media are undoubtedly influenced by voices like yours”.

Damn, they’re coming my way!

Q hides behind a door and holds his breath. As the solar team exits the room, he catches Agent 001 asking Piccard what he thought of Fabius, and the pilot painting the portrait of a man truly committed to the success of the agreement and concretely implicated in the negotiations.

When Q comes out of his hiding place, they are nowhere to be seen. “M is going to kill me”, he shivers. He spends the rest of the morning restlessly exploring every nook and cranny of the Bourget.  

At midday, he gives up, and goes to the nearest sandwich bar to get a little food in his stomach before mustering the courage to call M. And there they are! Only a few meters away in the line.

Solar team spotted! I’m not blinking for the rest of the day.

They all wolf down their lunch in silence.

I’m now following them into the International New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference. American Secretary of State John Kerry is arriving on stage. Agent 001 raises his phone above the crowd to take pictures.

 

Piccard, and most of the assembly, clap loudly as John Kerry states that climate change “is the most extraordinary market opportunity in the history of mankind”. I hear Piccard whispering to Agent 001: “I’m glad to see he agrees with my third principle” with a wink.

Agent 002 grins when the Secretary of State declares that it is even a far bigger opportunity than the information technology boom in the United States.

A gentleman in the assembly asks him whether he thinks putting the Paris deal before Congress would strengthen it. Mr. Kerry replies he believes not considering the gridlock that increasingly paralyzes the Senate, as well as the number of climate sceptics among members of Congress. How people can deny climate change when faced with the reality of numbers and statistics baffles me. The maths never lie.

Q stops listening and meticulously examines Agents 001 and 002. But still no sketchy behavior… He’s starting to wonder if M isn’t being paranoiac.

The speech is over, and everybody is rushing out to get to Laurent Fabius’ announcement in time. It’s THE place to be today. I’m caught up in the crowd but keeping my eyes on the agents.

We arrive in a room dubbed “La Seine”, like the river flowing through Paris. People take a seat and whisper ceremoniously with their neighbours.

I can see Laurent Fabius coming in through the back. Silence in the room.  

As he explains that negotiators have come up with the draft of a “legally binding, balanced and sustainable” agreement, people around me approve. It’s only 29 pages, compared to the previous 43-page version, and ¾ of the points in brackets have been dealt with.  

He’s now going a little more into the details of what has been approved and what remains to be achieved. But it’s still hard to know exactly what will come out in the final agreement on Friday evening. As he told Piccard this morning, he remains convinced a deal can be found in the two days left.

Agents 001 and 002 are paying close attention but look completely exhausted.

The staff is now handing out copies of the draft to all members of the audience. Not very environmentally-friendly all that paper if you ask me…

The Paris Committee will meet up again at 8 pm once everyone has read and worked on it, before pulling an allnighter. I’m glad I’m not one of the negotiators!

 

After hanging around for a while to talk with and encourage the rest of the crowd, they leave the Bourget and take the RER towards the city center. An hour and a half later, they finally arrive at the Grand Palais, where François Hollande will soon be taking a tour of the solutions presented in the exposition. The clock ticks by, slowly…

We’ve been locked in the Grand Palais for an hour now, and still no sign of the President. Agent 001 is Skyping other agents in Lausanne and showing them what the Grand Palais looks like at the moment. He’s laughing a lot, and Agent 002 joins him to explain what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Ah, here comes Hollande!

After stopping at several stands, he arrives in front of the Solar Impulse model. Piccard proudly talks him through the plane’s technologies and how implementing them on the ground could cut our energy consumption by half.

 

Hollande is moving on, and I hear Agent 001 announcing that the day’s over. Great, I’m out of here!

Q arrives at his hotel, and throws himself on his bed. He spends most of his days sitting behind his computer and isn’t used to so much physical activity. And all for nothing. Agents 001 and 002 are clearly following M’s orders. M is getting old, which might explain why his instinct isn’t as sharp as it used to be. In any case Q is going back to his lab tomorrow, and he can’t wait.

 

This post has been originally published here.

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