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MunicipalI am Janos Pasztor, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, in Paris for UN Climate Change Conference. AMA!

Dec 3rd 2015 by Jpasztor • 12 Questions • 962 Points

My short bio: I'm the Senior Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on climate change, and have been working on the issue for over 20 years. Right now I'm in Paris at the UN Climate Change Conference where I'm supporting efforts to achieve a universal climate agreement. Ask Me Anything!

My Proof: https://twitter.com/jpasztor/status/672298653659234304

Thanks everybody. Great conversation, but I must go now. I have to go back to the negotiations now. This was my first Reddit session. And it was great fun!

Q:

what do these negotiations actually look like? Like you all sit down, realize the problem at hand, what's stopping people from signing major agreements?

A:

It is actually pretty crazy. Imagine 195 countries represented. Think of the views of Samoa, Russia, USA or the Central African Republic. They all come to these negotiations from a different perspective, with different social and economic backgrounds. ANd the fact that climate change affects everybody, but that not all countries are equally responsible for the emissions - neither historically (and don't forget that emissions are cumulative) nor for the future. So countries come with their positions. They present them in meetings (the official meetings are interpreted into the 6 official UN languages), and then they discuss... and discuss... and discuss, until they agree. Usually the agreements come on the last day - actually last night, usually early mornings. Climate Change delegates are notorious for negotiating until they just run out of energy.


Q:

Do you believe that the effects of intensive animal agriculture on climate change need to be addressed?

A:

Yes. The impacts of intensive agriculture are significant, and there are alternatives. Including improved production practices as well as different consumption patterns (read less meat consumption)


Q:

How do we counteract the fact that in democratic societies, during times of economic hardship, people, when electing their government, are going to be more likely to choose politicians who are more focused on rapid economic growth than environmental protection?

A:

OF course we want to elect politicians who will bring us economic growth, but we need a different kind of economic growth - one that does not harm the environment, and also helps to achieve social objectives. This is the essence of sustainable development, where you don't have to sacrifice economic growth for environmental protection. It is possible. We have seen many countries who have substantially increased their GNP, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.


Q:

How will climate change affect South-east Asian countries, like the Philippines?

A:

There will be many different impacts, increasingly visible over time. But perhaps the most visible ones relate to increased magnitude of extreme weather events. And we have certainly seen substantial typhoons in the Philippines in the recent past. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas is a serious concern, but also impacts on the monsoon cycle - so important for food security in the region.


Q:

Hello! If you were to pick one private sector initiative/product/service that's the most innovative in reducing greenhouse gas emission what would it be? And why?
Thank you!

A:

I am not ducking the answer, but there is no simple, one answer. There is a tendency to look for the "silver bullet", but in fact we need to talk about the "silver buckshot". There are many innovative solutions out there in different countries, by different companies, communities, civil society organizations.


Q:

Without intervention, how long does the Earth have before catastrophic events happen?

A:

We need to start now, because the longer we wait the more difficult and more expensive the response will be. Global emissions need to peak in about 5 years. This is challenging but doable. Otherwise increasingly serious impacts will be seen.


Q:

What can a normal person do to combat climate change in their everyday lives?

A:

The most important action we can all take is to make sure we vote for those politicians who want to do something about climate change. But we must also walk the talk, and act. That means switching lights off when not in use; not stepping on that gas pedal all the way when on the highway; not overcooling our house, and so on... If you are interested, check out the the website www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction


Q:

We read about these conferences happening and everybody talks about taking serious action to combat climate change, and such. But the things that are being discussed, are they actually being implemented? Or are serious measures being implemented but not followed? How can one reach out to the masses?

A:

Many actions are being implemented, others not. That is why it is so important to have a good monitoring and review systems to see transparently what is happening. What is also important is that countries are proposing their nationally determined climate plans - ie they are proposing what they can actually do. Reaching out to the masses is challenging, but that is part of the political process.


Q:

How difficult is it to negotiate with nations that disagree with the idea that climate change caused my humans is having a major impact? And does having such a large and powerful organization such as the EU add legitimacy to the notion that it does?

A:

There is no such nation! No nation disputes the fact that human-induced climate change is happening, and that we need to act. On the first day of the conference, we heard 150 heads of state and government say very clearly that climate change was a major issue, and that we needed a strong agreement.


Q:

What is the most solid proof that climate change is man made that you can point to? Thanks!

A:

We know that the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has gone over 400 parts per million. A most dramatic rise of 100 over pre-industrial levels. When we compare this with measurements of historical concentration, we see that it correlates with anthropogenic (Human induced) fossil fuel combustion. And we are seeing the impacts in different parts of the world. Reduction of glacier coverage, extreme weather events, etc.


Q:

Do you think the major governments are doing enough to encourage renewable energies and deplete carbon emissions? What renewable energies should countries be investing in the most? Thanks

A:

I think they are doing a lot for renewables, but overall they all need to do much more. What is key is to remove fossil fuel subsidies (both production and consumption subsidies).


Q:

Since getting agreement on large scale meaningful action seems highly unlikely, what smaller steps are within reach and how will they lead to greater progress?

A:

I actually think we will get a meaningful agreement at this conference. The presence of 150 Heads of State and Government made that very clear on the first day. At the same time, we have been engaged in many activities under the so-called Action Agenda, which show that already a lot is happening in the world - both on adaptation and mitigation. These are small, and some really big steps, which altogether are showing that the world is already moving in the right direction.