FAfter the groundbreaking Paris climate agreement at COP21 in 2015, American businessman Rick Saines was awarded France’s National Order of Merit, making him a “Chevalier” for the role that he played in collaboration with American and French officials to make this historic summit a success.
Six years later, at Cop26 – the summit at which countries’ progress is now reviewed – Saines is largely optimistic that these meetings remain a crucial part of how humanity can avoid the cataclysms we are facing. faced in runaway climate change scenarios.
In the first week of the conference, he’s reluctant to make solid predictions about longer-term outcomes, likening being at the conference itself to a sporting event.
“It’s a bit like watching golf on TV,” he told The Independent. “On television you have someone who organizes every shot of every player, you have the commentary and you can have an overall appreciation of what is happening, but you don’t really understand the atmosphere, the atmosphere, the energy that is present and the momentum that is immovable.
“The cop is very similar. It’s a huge event with thousands of people, and it’s spread over a huge area. You can’t be everywhere at once. Every three meters, something important happens.
But he is encouraged by greater awareness of key issues among summit delegates, as well as a heightened sense of common purpose, which he says has changed in the six years since Paris.
“The engagements that come out — as an observer — seem to be a bit different from what may have happened historically, in that they’re quite specific and quite focused,” he says.
“[Finance] is no longer just a number. It’s about how we are going to deploy it in the most critical way as soon as possible, with this decade being the decisive decade for whether we really create a prosperous and prosperous planet – for the environment, for humans and for our economy. – or if we are essentially dooming ourselves to climate chaos.
But despite this, he is not convinced that this summit will achieve the goal of putting us on the direct path to preventing temperatures from exceeding 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial era.
“It’s really important to keep the pressure on to get the level of ambition in the NDCs (country emissions plans), to align with the science. It’s an absolute imperative,” he says.
“But we’re not there yet, and we probably won’t be there by the end of this cop.”
Nonetheless, he notes that the entire architecture of the Paris climate accord is essentially “a perpetually self-improving system.”
“Every five years you check, update, improve, reflect on what needs to be done and track where we are succeeding and where we are not succeeding. We have to call him when we are not.
“But the level of ambition is still not there,” he says. “There’s always this distance between what policymakers and governments think they can achieve, versus what working with the private sector…can achieve.”
He outlines what he sees as the main challenges that states must now overcome to make this summit, and all subsequent ones, a success.
“Bringing the private sector into what was happening in Paris was a pretty big set of commitments,” he says, crediting his efforts on this as the main reason for his later distinction from the French state.
“Once these solutions (from private sector involvement) start to develop, the political opportunity to pursue higher ambitions will be much more tenable for a number of countries,” he said.
“It’s not a challenge that can be solved in an instant, or a statement or a meeting – a cop – it requires a constant evolution over time, of our whole economic system.
“A lot of this is going to happen anyway because of basic technological advancements. Economies are creative and changing and transforming all the time.
“But what we need to do is accelerate the pace of this change and adapt it to the scientific imperative. This is where the rubber touches the road.