Paris and the Amazing Technicolor Charm-Quilt: Why This Year's Climate Talks Really Are Different

The United Nations today released an amazing document: namely, its tally of all the climate action plans that almost 150 countries have submitted this year.

It shows that plans now in development will slash global emissions by 4 gigatonnes per year by 2030, but that's not what makes the document so amazing.

No, what makes it amazing is the process that it's part of -- a process that ditches the quixotic quest for a one-size-fits-all global agreement and replaces it with a transparent and iterative process that should lead to deeper and deeper cuts over time.

It's that process that made it possible for other organizations to crunch the numbers even before the UN did, and to convert the data into temperature projections.

It's a process designed to spark a global race to the top, but it will only work if people understand it and embrace it. Unfortunately, it's clear from the questions asked during today's press conference that most media and the general public still haven't done either.

If you're struggling to get your head around the new climate reality, check out a piece that's become a hot "share" among negotiators and others directly involved in the process. We posted it at the beginning of last week's climate talks in Bonn, but it's as relevant today as it was then.

By Steve Zwick
This story first appeared on Ecosystem Marketplace. You can view the original here.

Schenectady NY is home to a little shop called Quiltbug, which sells patches and threads and patterns for making quilts. It has a web site with a glossary on it, and the glossary defines a "charm quilt" as a "quilt made of many small pieces of fabric where each piece is a different fabric".

This year's climate talks are something like that, because - unlike years past - negotiators aren't charged with the impossible task of weaving millions of incompatible threads into one uniform sheet, but instead with the merely herculean task of piecing together more than one hundred patches, called "Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions" (INDCs), into something that might be clunky and inelegant, but that should prevent our planet from warming more than 2°C (and preferably 1.5°C) over the next century, because that's the threshold beyond which things get hairy.

Countries have been rolling out their INDCs all year, and the United Nations will publish an official "synthesis" of all the INDCs before the end of next week to let us know how close we are to the 2°C target. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) took a stab at it earlier this month, and estimates that plans currently on the table will limit the increase to 2.7°C. That's down from 3.6°C in earlier projections, but still not deep enough to avert disaster.