No one expected tremendous progress in Cancun, to say the least. But still, when a journalist asked me today if I found it 'worrisome' that the Cancun talks didn't make progress to close the gap between the level of effort countries are willing to commit to and the level of effort that science tells us is needed, it was all I could do not to snap at her. Worrisome? Of course its worrisome. I've got young children who need us to do better than this. They need us to hand the planet over to them in better shape than we are on track to do so far.
I hung up the phone and watched again a video someone pointed me towards in Cancun. In it, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres answers a group of young activists who ask her what inspires her to do the work that she does. "It's you," she says, fighting back tears.
Look: We’re doing this but this has nothing to do with us. It’s all about you. It’s all about you. We’re the ones that have caused the problem but you’re the ones that are going to have to pay for it, right? The fact is, I’m the mother of two women about your age, and I realized many years ago that I had inherited a planet that was a diminished planet. And that if I didn’t do something about it, my daughters would grow up in a planet that had been severely diminished by what we’re doing. And I just can’t look at my daughters in the eyes and not do whatever I can.
So, it’s you. It’s about the kind of planet that you’re going to have. It’s honestly not my planet. It’s yours, okay? We borrowed it from you for a few minutes. But you will take it over very soon, because it’s yours. And you’re going to have to give it over to your children.
Honestly, there’s no perfect job here, okay? Nothing that we are going to do in Cancun is going to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Nothing is going to be highly ambitious. Nothing. Everything here is going to be one step, and everything is going to be insufficient. But it is the best that this group of people in these circumstances, with these political constraints, in this economic environment, can do for the time being. And as soon as this finishes we have to start pushing for the next step. And so it goes. But each one of us that is here has the moral responsibility to do the absolute best that we can at that moment under those circumstances. So what inspires me? It’s you.Many people are finding reasons for hope in the outcomes of the Cancun Agreements. I'm not sure, that Christiana's words make me hopeful exactly, but the fact that our world has chosen someone to lead the global climate treaty process who is in touch with her heart and grounded in current reality is, at the very least, a reason to keep on going. Like Christiana, how can we not do whatever we can?
Please, take a moment, and take in the UNFCCC leader's words and spirit.