Looking forward to GFEI's week at COP21

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COP21 has begun, and the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) will soon be adding our voice to the multitude clamouring for action on key climate mitigation activities. The work we do at GFEI is really practical and focuses on supporting countries in the adoption of cost effective technologies to reduce fuel use in light vehicles. That alone could save 33gt of CO2 by 2050, a sizeable contribution to climate mitigation from this most difficult of sectors.

As I look forward to a frantic week of meetings, speeches and events in Paris, I am struck by several competing concerns – some admittedly more globally significant than others! My first concern of course revolves around the ability of my husband and 3 kids to manage the pre-Xmas whirlwind without me - although in truth they probably see my absence more as an opportunity than a threat! Second I wonder how my wonderful and favourite friend – the city of Paris – will manage such a crazy influx of folk, not least in light of the recent tragic events. But most importantly I wonder whether this COP really is going to be ‘the one’, the elusive political gathering, perhaps galvanised by some wider concerns and threats, to sign on the dotted line of an agreement which could actually deliver change?

Lasting, indelible, immutable change is a very tall order. Thus far it is true to say that mankind’s ability to make – and hold – the sort of change which really scary challenges demand has been pretty underwhelming. We all bear responsibility for this. Even when laws are created and behaviours begin to adapt, politicians can work a bit like the tide, sweeping in and washing away the achievements of their predecessors like writing in the sand. Consumers can reject low carbon options through lack of reliable information, and manufacturers….well after the VW debacle, how do they regain trust?

However in this COP run-up I have found myself surprisingly and unexpectedly optimistic about prospects for real action on our climate. The reason? The last 12 months have seen energy efficiency – that previously most unsexy of issues – front and centre in so many fora and receiving the sort of attention which its carbon-saving propensity deserves. Working hard with amongst others Sustainable Energy for All and the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate PPMC, as well as with GFEI’s amazing partners, IEA, ICCT, UNEP, UCDavis and ITF has meant that the SDGs embody energy efficiency in target 7.3, and just recently the G20 reaffirmed its commitment to energy efficiency.

This week will see GFEI build on that momentum, announcing new country engagements, new research and new resources, and sharing our practical, evidence-based and truly transferable activities with anyone who’ll listen. As the week wears on I will update this blog with observations from the frontline...let’s see if I end up as positive as when I began!