COP21: A Good Deal...

If you are reading this you will almost certainly know that last Saturday governments from all over the world agreed to limit global warming and address the effects of climate change.

The core of the agreement is:

  • A commitment to peak greenhouse gas emissions at below 2 degrees
  • Set emissions commensurate with the planet’s capacity to absorb gases naturally between 2050 and 2100
  • Provide $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020 for developing countries
  • Progress to be reviewed every five years.

This exceeded my expectations.The years of COPs leading to 21 have not inspired great hope - political negotiations so easily obscure the goals and diminish the stakes. Lord Stern’s assertion of almost a decade ago that climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen is even more evident today. The notion of endless material consumption is endlessly foolish, and is a grim view of human aspiration. But it is the way we run things and so tackling climate change challenges the core tenets of our global economy, how we got here and our version of human beings as evolution’s greatest achievement.

Most troubling to a bystander is the visceral knowledge, in the bones, that something is very wrong. The knowledge that our planet is under acute stress is not just in the brain but embodied in each moment as it unfolds. The disjunct between what is so deeply felt and the general political discourse is breathtaking and very hard to tolerate.

So COP21 came as a huge relief.

In true traditional fashion COP21 talks went on all night for several nights with twists and turns and the spectre of COP15 - so disappointing - stalking Le Bourget. So the moment, 24 hours late, when Laurent Fabius, banged his gavel onto the table with a deal, was extraordinary. For once, the global community was prepared to unite to stay the tide, even in the midst of other animosities, and do something for the greater good.

The joy that rippled out beyond Le Bourget and into the streets of Paris was wonderful. This feat of diplomacy was orchestrated by civic society (businesses, philanthropists and NGOs) peppering the negotiations with pledges and initiatives for clean, renewable energy. 20 governments pledging $20 billion investment in clean energy over five years; private philanthropists and businesses with a roadmap for 100% renewable energy, and new coalitions such as Global Solar creating critical mass.


The lead negotiators were supported by groups lobbying for a decent deal – faith, business, youth, indigenous, community and NGO’s amplifying the core message.



These have been collected under the banner of the Paris Pledge.

And the creative community played a part, with a letter JB presented to Christiana Figueres, with over 400 signatories from across the international creative community. Championed by many, the letter was circulated to the Paris negotiating team a week before the talks began, then again formally on the final day of the talks.

Thanks to all of you who signed, and especially to Dilys Williams, Mike Martin, David Lewis, Tanya Ronder, Heather Ackroyd, Peter Gingold, David Buckland, Maria Balshaw and Nick Merriman, Anupama Sekhar, Josh Shachter and Larry Sakin, Selina Webb, James Murtagh-Hopkins, Aaron Matthews, Laura Pando, Melvin Benn and, of course JB’s chairman Tony Wadsworth. All helped to gather an exceptional group of artists and cultural leaders.

So, what does all this mean for culture and the creative industries?

Over the last couple of years the links between sustainability and culture have become much clearer, though there is an obstinate gap in policy and thus the frameworks and investment which prompt change. This was therefore the focus of the Paris ArtCOP21 Professional Workshop JB ran with IFACCA, COAL, Cape Farewell and On the Move, with representatives from almost 50 countries. Wrought through the many examples of work, from Columbia to Zimbabwe, Kosovo to the UK, Holland to Taiwan, was a common principle of partnership. Scores of examples of culture prompting change were presented, with some real achievements in reduction. And the lack of focus, common narrative and, above all, evidence with which to make the case for culture an agent of sustainable change was evident.

You can read the full notes here.

Throughout the fortnight hundreds of creatives and artists from across the globe mobilised for COP21, many under the auspices of ArtCOP21, and many independently, an indivisible component in a much bigger moment.

The next few years will be critical. The naysayers are out in force already – both those that wanted more, and those that wanted less. Now it is important to keep urgent and optimistic. It will be incredibly difficult to achieve a 1.5 limit – reading James Hansen and Myles Allen leaves no doubt of that. But surely it will be easier to build a movement of change so that ambitions and goals can increase as momentum builds now that the architecture is loosely there.

We invite you to join us on this journey, alongside the 1,000s of people already involved. Our first call to action is to sign the L’Appel de Paris – the Paris Pledge for Action. More details on how to do this here.

Ice Watch

Julie’s Bicycle partnered with Studio Olafur Eliasson and Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring Ice Watch to Paris for COP21. 80 tonnes of ice from a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland were transported to the Place du Pantheon for a bold climate change art initiative.

Artist Olafur Eliasson and his collaborator, scientist Minik Rosing, eloquently described how the melting ice made the subject of COP21 tangible, and they hoped it would inspire negotiators to arrive at a shared commitment to address climate change. Watch footage from the installation and read more about the project here.

Sustaining Creativity