Flying through the labyrinthine alleys of the Medina on a motorbike as the COP22 came to a close in Marrakesh, I thought it an apt comparison to the complex and intricate UN process responding to climate change. At every twist and turn or blind alley we encountered a huge variety of people, dwellings, riads, vehicles and forms of transport – from donkey carts to bicycles, small wagons, three-wheelers, skateboards, motos and electric cars, in all directions at once, all struggling with their different capacities to get through the narrow passageways to their destinations. Sharp corners and hairpin turns, bumps and brakes, with no safety helmets demanded close attention to detail, a clear lookout and enormous cooperation – as each respected the others' right of way and slowed or sped up as appropriate to allow for the steady flow of humanity and goods. It was at once terrifying and exhilarating. It required holding on tight and fully trusting in the driver's considerable ability to negotiate the complex challenges with skill and enormous patience and determination to successfully navigate the way forward.
Mitigating the danger, adapting moment by moment to the changing situation, and realizing the very real possibility of suffering loss and damage was further accentuated as we joined the faster voluminous traffic on the main thoroughfare and careened through the merging flow around Liberty Circle, weaving through the lanes against all odds to arrive at the relative safety of the hotel.
It seemed like a regular experience of a COP.
This may be a curious metaphor, but the urgency of the fast approaching climate crisis can be overwhelming - as can traversing the Medina. So many features and such diverse situations and vehicles for responding to demands of the moment and the needs of the future. It seems like the overarching narrative must be one of purpose and hope to achieve the desired ends - sometimes against intransient differences of opinion and entrenched imbalanced positions. But the obvious pressure to move forward pushes us all towards trust and faith that it is possible. There is still a long way to go but having agreed to the journey, the process is underway and there is no turning back.
How we navigate the roadmap to 2020 and beyond is what will determine the success of the outcome – whether we keep to 1.5 degrees increase or blow well beyond the carbon budget; whether we achieve 100% renewable energy or stick to the same old fossil fuel addiction and continue building more pipelines and pumping more emissions into the atmosphere accelerating climate changes; whether we help each other out, especially the most vulnerable in our global community or ignore the suffering of those who are already impacted and often displaced by the ravages of climate catastrophe. We have to choose.
The commitment made in Paris now requires a dedicated implementation – and quickly. We will either be stuck in the Medina, endlessly wandering or we will take the risks with courage to pursue new pathways of making climate justice and peace with the Earth. It’s time to choose life.