And how do these different action arms communicate with each other? Well, they don't really. At least not at COP21.
There were people there from all over the world, but they were almost all members of civil society and as a result, there was a plentitude of groups calling for action on climate change, but almost no one showcasing the technologies that would be needed to achieve this action.
When I stepped into La Galerie, the dedicated business space, I breathed a sigh of relief. Here were all sorts of companies showing off how their technologies were going to save the world. But as I continued to walk around, I slowly started noticing that many of these companies where more intent on making big profits from their solutions than taking meaningful action on climate change.
There were, for example, oil companies developing carbon capture technologies, who seemed to be driven more by the prospect of sustaining their oil revenues than sustaining the environment.
Even solar panel companies seemed to be focused more on getting the highest return for their investments than helping the local populations in which they worked. In the Climate Generations Area, Samuela Vercelli from the NGO CO2GeoNet told me, on the topic of small household-size solar installation projects, that "I think this is important...because technology development is taking new ways. These very small projects and technologies don't require a lot of investment, and don't make a lot of profit, so they might be neglected. But I think that, for many problems, it could be the actual solution." I later spoke with a representative from Enekio, a green informatics company, and he highlighted the company's partnerships with solar utilities to construct giant solar power plants in Senegal. Enekio is taking action, but is it the action we need right now?
Boy, if the business and civil society arms met frankly with each other, I bet they could get a lot done, I thought to myself, but the Climate Generations Area was a mile away, and you needed "professional accreditation" to even get into the business space. I am guessing this was done to avoid civil society protests like the one that occurred at Solutions COP21, a business expo open to the public located in the center of Paris.
The government arm, then, was so absent in the business and civil society spaces that the negotiations might as well have been taking place in another part of the city, and not in the building next door. Apart from a brief appearance by the President of France (which I missed) and seeing a few "overflow" negotiators taking a stroll through the climate generations area every once in a while, the government arm was all but nonexistent to me. I have heard even from NGO's that have access to the negotiations that the prospects of their having any impact on the negotiating texts are extremely low.
I understand that these three action arms often come into conflict with each other, and that they each need their own space in order to get anything done, I also think they will need to interact with each other a little more than they have been at COP21 in order to effectively crack the climate change problem. It will not be solved by activists alone, or businesspeople, or politicians. We need all of them.