Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Five Things We Learned On Day Four

Fairfax - Peter Hannam & Tom Arup, Paris

Visitors walk through ice blocks as part of the sculpture Ice Watch, by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, as part of the Paris climate talks. Photo: Jacques Brinon

1: Of Smartflowers and Eiffel leaves
Summiteers lucky enough to slip out of the conference to take in some of the major sites of beauty in Paris may not dodge the issue of climate change.
Take the subway to the Hotel de Ville, the city's beautiful neo-Renaissance town halls ("with 108 statues of illustrious Parisians", the guidebook tells us), and the traveller will be met with posters declaring how 80 per cent of buses will be "electrique" by 2025 and the rest will run on "biogaz".
Those hoping to find the traditional ice-skating rink, which runs from December to early March, will, it seems, be disappointed. Such entertainment might send a mixed signal during a conference tackling a warming world. Advertisement
Luckily, the visitors can inspect an exhibition of technologies of the future, such as this "Smartflower", dubbed "the first intelligent photovoltaic generator".
Smartflower' on display at Cities for Climate exhibition in Paris.

Its 12 petals contain 18 square metres of solar panels that open to the sun and close down at dusk, and follow the golden orb in between. In a year, it can generate 4000 kw-hours of electricity or more than enough for a typical French household.
And while the Eiffel Tower has been used lately to symbolise peace amid the terrorist attacks, it can also send a decent ecological statement too:
A new take on the icon of Paris.

2: Ice rinks may be out, but ice is in – or at least until it melts
Olafur Eliasson​, an Danish-Icelandic (or is that "Ice-ish") artist has succeeded in taking a chunk of Greenland's ice sheet all the way to Paris to highlight what is happening to many of the world's great ice sheets and glaciers.
Eliasson told The Guardian that his installation was intended to serve as a memorial to the shrinking Arctic: "The ice we are going to put in Paris is a tenth of what melts in a second in the Greenland summer."
It is a way to make the data real, to make the facts emotionally potent, he told the British media outlet.
And it seems the ice made it to Paris, for a while at least:
10,000 year old ice from Greenland. Taking a Paris vacation.

3: Burning up cash
On the financial front, Carbon Tracker came out with a report warning that $US2 trillion ($2.7 trillion) of assets face being stranded if the world's nations took seriously the two degree warming limit they agreed to at Copenhagen six long years ago.
With Mr "Inconvenient Truth" – Former US Vice President Al Gore – on hand, the group argued that coal, oil and gas assets would in many cases be stranded at 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide limit for the atmosphere – a guideline for that 2-degree limit.
"Over $US2 trillion of capex needs to not be approved in order to avoid around 156 Gigatonnes of CO² of emissions – the equivalent of cutting supply and the subsequent emissions by around a quarter in the markets covered in this analysis," it said. (See table below of capex (investment) in US dollar terms.)

The group says its starkest finding is probably that all existing coal mines are sufficient to meet the 450 ppm scenario.
"It is the end of the road for expansion of the coal sector," it said, noting that China's coal demand has likely peaked and that India was becoming the main hope for coal exporters such as Australia and Indonesia.
How far India is likely go down the same coal path as China may well hinge on what happens in Paris over the next week or so.

4: What does a pavilion say about a nation?
At the Paris climate summit there are two halls where countries have been allowed to set up both offices and promotional areas for their climate plans.
A straw poll of the press room has India winning the most extravagant with its fountains and light shows.
India's display.

The United States has a giant planet (typical arrogant Americans think they own the world, am I right?), which is used by earnest scientists to explain how warming temperature will effect salmon spawning patters.

And then there is Australia.

If we were to be kind we'd call it a judicious use of tax payers' money reflecting the focus of the delegation on the negotiations and not glitzy show and tell.

5: Finally some action
After days of slow progress the United Nations climate negotiations finally reverted to form.
Developing nations were battling it out with industrialised ones over, well, pretty much everything. You can read more about it here.
If we assume the talks will end at 6pm on Friday week (and they really won't) then there are eight days left to get a whole new global climate change deal.
The clock is ticking.

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