The Global Climate Action High-Level Event | Photo by Esra Sergi, UN DPI

Just Transition— This is one of the themes that Poland has designated for the Conference, with the idea that every country has to move to a low-carbon economy while considering the particular economic and social circumstances faced by the people. The theme fits with the idea of holding the Conference in the heart of coal country, in a region that is making the transition away from coal.  The theme raises the conundrum faced by countries as they work to accelerate climate action—the recent IPCC report says that actions that can reduce emissions include, for example, phasing out coal in the energy sector, increasing the amount of energy produced from renewable sources, electrifying transport, and reducing the ‘carbon footprint’ of the food we consume.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish leader, had the idea of a “just transition” in mind today when she announced that she was forming a “Just Transition Commission.” She said Scotland, which has been a major producer of oil and gas, has created 50,000 jobs in wind and tidal energy production.  She said leaders have to tell people that “there was nothing to fear and everything to gain” from the transition—new jobs, higher skills, and better wages. “It can be unsettling, but it has to be done.”

Clean cement—Cement production is one of the highest emitting industries, but it doesn’t have to be. With a focus on sustainability, profits have not suffered at Dalmia Cement, according to CEO Mahendra Singhi.  In fact, the company, with plants in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with a capacity of 9 million tonnes per annum initially set a goal of becoming carbon neutral— and achieved it. Mr. Singhi said his company then thought about what they can do next. “Now we’re trying to become climate negative.”

Time, Space, Reality and Hope

The challenges were too many and overwhelming, but that was not an excuse to give up, said Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space.

Photo by James Dowson, UNFCCC

“First reality check is that earth does not need us, we need it,” she said, calling to cut carbon emissions in the face of a growing population, which would require a better quality of life.

“Despite setbacks, there’s need for optimism,” she said, recalling actions taken around the world. She then cited the story of “smart grandmothers” of India, who learned from scratch to build solar panels and electrify their villages. They became the inspiration to other grannies in Africa.

“We have the technologies available at our disposal, this gives me hope.”