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A climate revolution: happening everywhere but the UN climate negotiations

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There’s a revolution going on outside the halls of the UN’s COP 20 climate change talks in Lima, Peru.

Industry is taking action on climate change. People are taking to the streets. The weather is changing.

Yesterday, the World Meteorological Organization announced that 2014 is tracking to be the hottest year on record. Ever.

But you wouldn’t know it from the glacial pace of the negotiations.

Here in Lima, world governments need to think hard about their role in this revolution – do they want to rise up too and transcend their bureaucratic entanglements, or be the villains in this narrative?

It’s time for government leaders to decide which story they want to tell.

The good news is that we can still band together planet-wide to avoid taking a path that will transform the Earth into something we’ve only seen in works of science fiction—a nearly lifeless rock whose final inhabitants race against time to relocate to a lush new world.

Without urgent and more ambitious action, the poorest and most vulnerable will bear the brunt of the impacts. And the ecosystems that support us all will begin to collapse. In fact, we are already seeing disruption in freshwater and food supplies.

That makes this an issue of justice and fairness. Once you have looked injustice in face, it becomes impossible to ignore. And those that do will be judged by history.

For the next two weeks here in Peru, negotiators from nearly two hundred countries have gathered to outline a global climate agreement to be approved in Paris in 2015. It is imperative that these negotiators hold their actions and commitments up to the mirror of science and fairness. Only then can we be assured of a just and adequate agreement.

We have one year to pull this off. We are off to a decent start with announcements by China, the US and the European Union committing to new emission reduction targets, but these must be the opening bids for these governments and we need to see other nations rise up to the challenge. The finance commitments made by a number of countries earlier this month also lends some political momentum to the talks, but we need more and we need to ensure safeguards are put in place to direct where and how this money is used.

I was honored to be part of the 400,000-plus swarm of people marching in New York in September. In that moment, we were overcoming the odds, rising up, and taking a stand against injustice.

Now that’s a good story. I’d like to tell a good one about our time in Lima too.

Samantha Smith is the leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, and is based in Norway. 

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