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Ask where your food comes from, says UN climate chief

She is the most powerful diplomat on the climate scene. She can claim major credit for forging the historic Paris Agreement to limit global warming below 2C.Yet Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, still says individuals are key to tackling climate change.

The Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 failed, she says, because people sat back and left it to national governments to solve climate change. By contrast, the Paris summit, known as COP21, succeeded because people got behind it.

“It took the entire world, thousands of millions of people around the world to contribute to the Paris Agreement,” Ms Figueres told the audience at the Grantham Institute Annual Lecture in London in April. “I was incredibly blessed and privileged just one day before we began Paris to receive a very long scroll that was signed by 1.8 million people around the world saying  (a) ’we want not just a Paris agreement we want an ambitious Paris agreement’ and (b) ’ we are doing everything in our personal life to bring our own carbon footprint downs’.”

Ms Figueres is optimistic that the Paris Agreement will come into effect sooner than planned, because the countries of the world adopted it unanimously at the summit - a unique diplomatic achievement. On Earth Day last week a record 175 countries signed the agreement and some have already ratified it at national level, the two steps required to bring it into force.

"Individuals have a huge role to play"

“Individuals have a huge role to play” to meet the targets, she told Climates’ founder, Biba Hartigan after her lecture.

“One could sit back and say ‘well you know climate change is so complex, it’s literally a global problem so let those that operate at the global level, call them the nations of the world, solve this problem, this is nothing to do with me’. Wrong. Because the fact is the globe is currently made out of seven billion individuals and it is the collective greenhouse gas impact of all of us here that is actually what we are trying to deal with. So I don’t think there is any level of the system that is exempted from responsibility.”

And she called on everybody to look at their own behaviour and ask what they could do.

She said, ask yourselves, “Where does the food we consume come from? Are we still eating red meat? Hello! Are we at least eating white meat? Individuals have a huge role to play whether it be with our personal choices or our economic behaviour.”

Her lecture was on ‘transforming growth’ , separating economic growth from dependence on fossil fuel energy. She said there was a moral, social, economic and physical urgency to the issue and a ‘directional relationship’ between it and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on poverty, and human rights. But, with the current state of the global economy, infrastructure needs and falling costs for renewable energy, there “has never been a bigger opportunity and more auspicious moment” to tackle climate change.

“More carbon [in our atmosphere] equals more poverty; less carbon equals more growth, more jobs, more stability and more benefit for everyone,” she concluded.

By Liz Sutton

Photo of Christiana Figueres courtesy of The Grantham Institute, Imperial College

Liz Sutton 28.04.2016 1 1511
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  •  Biba Hartigan: 

    Having been largely ignored for years, diet is fast becoming a major player in tackling climate change. 

    Climates aims to make it easy for people to take action on climate change in their daily life and recognised early on that food was an area where individuals can have a big impact simply through our everyday food choices.  

    The Climatarian diet was devised and launched by Climates as the easy and effective way to address your food's climate impact and evidence is building from many areas as to the importance of its role. Earler this year, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, evidenced the Climatarian or 'climate carnivore' diet as essential to meet EU emissions targets. 

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