Marin delegates present climate change solutions at UN conference

Maxime Kawawa-Beaudan

Three Marin residents participated in the United Nations climate change conference in Paris this month to discuss new methods of combatting the issue. The conference culminated  with the signing of a landmark climate deal.

Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents Marin and other counties in California’s second congressional district, was in attendance, along with Dawn Weisz, CEO of Marin Clean Energy, and Shawn Marshall from LEAN Energy U.S.

The conference, Weisz said, was not to debate the existence of climate change, but rather to discuss potential worldwide solutions.

Paris delegates hope to find solutions to climate-change borne problems including, among others, food production in extreme environments.
Paris delegates hope to find solutions to climate-change borne problems including, among others, food production in extreme environments.

“There’s really a sense of shared recognition that planet change is already having impacts around the globe, and that there needs to be earnest action taken,” Weisz said.

Many delegates took part in what Weisz described as “a sharing of stories between countries.” The conference featured exhibit halls where members of communities particularly affected by climate change could share their stories.

“There have been a variety of impacts, including floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, and severe droughts,” Weisz said.

Weisz found that island nations are more severely affected by climate change, while larger land masses are affected more gradually. She also said that some of the areas most directly affected by climate change are poorer agrarian communities or fishing communities by the sea. The individuals whose homes and businesses are struck by the effects of harsh weather, overfishing, droughts, or extreme heat are often impoverished, according to Weisz.

She said that many possible solutions were discussed throughout the talks. For example, some nations are developing methods of growing food in near desert environments, and many island communities are working to plant mangroves to combat the effects of climate change on rising sea levels.

While most Paris attendees are united on the need for solutions, a more complicated issue appears when the question of cost arises, according to Weisz.

“Everyone seems jointly interested in protecting the future generations,” Weisz said. “[However] the countries that contributed most to climate change are in the Western Hemisphere, and they’re wealthy. The communities that are facing the biggest impacts are the ones in the Southern Hemisphere, and they’re not.”

A collective group of western countries, Weisz says, have discussed pitching in about $100 billion to implement solutions in the conferring nations.

Weisz’s own initiative, Marin Clean Energy, is a not-for-profit program owned by the local government that provides cleaner energy to Marin homes than what residents would regularly receive from PG&E.

Marin Clean Energy is a public choice program, meaning that it is provided for the whole community, but residents are not required to use it. According to Weisz, the benefit of a public choice program is that no new money flows have to be established.

“We’re taking an existing revenue stream that everyone is paying when they buy their energy, and we’re redirecting it from dirty energy to clean energy,” Weisz said.

Marin Clean Energy was the first public choice energy service in California, and has now spread to Richmond and a few other areas. This public choice organization would be strongly compatible with the energy systems in Japan and France, according to Weisz.

Delegates at the conference reached a landmark accord this week whose specifics have yet to be debated, but include an agreement that the global average temperature will rise fewer than two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.