“The whole economic system” must be transformed to fight against the climate, according to the key architect of the 2015 Paris agreement

Rick Saines was knighted – awarded the National Order of Merit of France – for his work on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement (Supplied)

Following the breakthrough Paris climate agreement at Cop21 in 2015, American businessman Rick Saines received the National Order of Merit of France, making him a “Chevalier” for the role he played with American and French officials in making this historic summit a success.

Six years later, at Cop26 – the summit at which countries’ progress is now closely scrutinized – Saines is largely optimistic that these meetings remain a crucial part of how humanity can avert the cataclysms we face in uncontrollable climate change scenarios.

During the first week of the conference, he is hesitant to make solid predictions about long-term results, comparing attending the conference itself to a sporting event.

“It’s a bit like watching golf on TV,” he told The Independent. “On TV you have someone curating every shot of every player, you have the commentary and you can have a full appreciation of what’s going on, but you don’t really understand the vibe, the vibe, the energy that is present and momentum that is immovable.

“The cop is very similar. It’s a huge event with thousands of people, and it spans a huge area. You cannot be everywhere at the same time. Every ten feet, something else of potential importance happens.

But he is encouraged by a greater awareness of key issues among summit delegates, as well as a heightened sense of the common purpose, which he says has changed in the six years since Paris.

“The engagements that come out – as an observer – seem to be a little different than what maybe happened historically, in that they’re pretty specific and they’re pretty focused,” he says. .

“[Finance] is no longer just a question of numbers. It’s about how we are going to deploy it in the most critical way possible, with this decade being the decisive decade for whether we are actually creating a prosperous and prosperous planet – for the environment, for humans, and for our economy – or if we condemn ourselves. mainly to climate chaos.

But despite that, he’s not convinced this summit will achieve the goal of putting us on the direct path to preventing temperatures from rising above 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial era.

“It is really important to keep up the pressure so that the level of ambition of the NDCs (country emission plans) is aligned with the science. It’s an absolute imperative, ”he says.

“But we’re not there yet, and we probably won’t be here by the end of this cop.”

Nonetheless, he notes that the whole architecture of the Paris climate agreement is essentially “a system in perpetual self-improvement”.

“Every five years, you check in, update, improve, think about what needs to be done, and track where we’re doing and where we’re not. We have to call it when we are not.

“But the level of ambition is still not there,” he said. “There is always this distance between what policymakers and governments think they can achieve, and what working with the private sector… can achieve. “

He sets out what he sees as the main challenges that states must now face in order to make this summit, and all that will follow, a success.

“Getting the private sector involved in what was going on in Paris was a fairly important set of commitments,” he says, attributing his efforts on this issue the main reason for his future distinction from the French state.

“Once these solutions (resulting from private sector participation) start to develop, the political opportunity to seek higher ambitions will be much more tenable for a number of countries,” he said.

“It’s not a challenge that can be solved by a moment, or a statement or a meeting – a cop – it requires a consistent evolution over time, of our entire economic system.

“A lot of this is going to happen anyway due to basic technological advancements. Economies are creative and change and transform all the time.

“But what we need to do is accelerate the pace of this change and match it with the scientific imperative. This is where the rubber hits the road.

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