I am in Paris – more precisely, at Le Bourget, in the Paris suburbs – to participate in the UN climate talks. As part of the Moms Clean Air Force delegation, I am here to tell negotiators, media outlets, non-governmental organizations, corporations, and climate activists from all over the world that American families care about climate change.
I arrived yesterday, but was too awed with the scale of this event, and too bleary with jet lag, to write.
Yesterday I went straight to the Moms Clean Air Force booth in the Climate Generations exhibition hall, where Gretchen was already busy talking with parents from every corner of the globe. Many agreed to send a special message to the world’s children by signing our posters saying,
Dear children of the world,
I am here to protect your future.
The posters are in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian – all of the official UN languages.
I also met with several amazing moms representing parent groups in France, Peru, and the US – all part of our international parents coalition, Our Kids Climate. We were brainstorming about how to spread the message that moms and dads understand climate change as an immediate threat to our children. We demand swift action. And we are raising our voices, together.
Today, I am writing at the Computer Center, with space for more than 100 people at a time to perch at long tables, plug in, and work. Partially walled off from a cafeteria on one side and exhibition booths on another, this is just one of many similar spaces in several of the large halls in this complex.
This sprawling conference center sits on the site of a former airport. Pavilions, tents, meetings halls, and exhibition areas will host perhaps 40,000 people from around the world by the time the conference ends on December 12. Aside from the many meeting halls set up for representatives of almost 200 countries to negotiate the climate agreement at hand, there are cafes, coffee shops, art exhibits, interactive booths highlighting countries from around the world, bicycle recharging stations (the energy you produce while pedaling powers your phone), a currency exchange office, first aid station, press conference rooms, video interview areas, and more.
The distances to walk between pavilions and events are vast. Comfortable shoes are a requirement. I don’t know how those in high heels manage it. I see some pretty high stilettos around here. I also see feather headdresses, many forms of face paint, and a rainbow of traditional fashions as well as a vast array of the modern kind too.
I can overhear many languages as people discuss press conferences, negotiating sessions, and where to find the upcoming panel discussion.
In addition to the languages of the world buzzing all around, there is the language of acronyms peculiar to this process: COP21, INDCs, L&D, SIDS, ADP, GCF, REDD, CMP. The substance of these negotiations are very technical, and has spawned more acronyms than I can count with all my fingers and toes. It is truly a language all to itself.
Our vocabulary is more down to earth. It’s the language of moms and dads. Our love for our children. Our concern for their health and future. But because our simple wishes hinge on the technical language of the UN climate agreement, we are learning these terms, and following the process.
The heads of state have come and gone, and the negotiators are digging in to the challenging, painstaking work of finalizing language. But there is palpable optimism here for a substantive global agreement that will help reduce the pollution driving climate change, for all the children.