Recognizing that educators are critical messengers of climate and energy literacy for hundreds of students each year, Climate Generation selected a delegation of 10 Education Ambassadors to bring to the UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris, France December 6-December 11,2015 through the Window Into Paris program. These 10 teachers attended COP 21,as both learners and climate change communicators back to their educational settings and communities. The teachers represented diverse subject areas, grade levels, and educational settings from each of the following states: New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota, and Colorado.
These Educator Ambassadors joined 40,000 individuals from around the world in observing UN negotiation, as well as attending side events throughout the city, webcasting back to their classrooms, blogging, and attending Climate Generation sponsored round table discussions with special guests and experts. This program was part of The White House Back-To-School Climate Education Event on August 20, 2015 from 9:30-12:30 ET. As a representative of the White House Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, we were able to secure a special meeting with the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Dr. John Holdren, to present position statements from students and citizens.
On December 12, the final day of Window Into Paris: COP21, 196 countries finalized and signed the Paris Agreement – the first global climate accord that commits all signatories to climate action. As news of the agreement spread, first to the halls of the Blue Zone – where negotiators and observers clapped and cracked Champagne – and then to the streets of Paris and beyond – where tens of thousands gathered to celebrate the agreement and challenge it to go further – and finally to our Climate Generation team when their planes touched down in the U.S., the historic importance of the moment was undeniable. The international community now has an action plan in place to address climate change that is “commensurate with the scale of the threat,” as New York Times reporter Justin Gillis puts it.
But as many have recognized in the days since the agreement,the pledges and promises made in the COP21 document are not enough by themselves to save the planet. In fact, they would lead to a world nearly twice as warm and climate-impacted as the aspirational 1.5ºC target laid out in the Paris text. Now that the foundation for action is in place, however, there is much that we can all do to ensure that the Paris Agreement lives up to its commitment to limiting temperature rise to 1.5ºC. The true assessment of the success or failure of COP21 will be years in the future, when we can look back and see what actions it inspired and how the world responded to its call to action.