The bumpy road to Paris



The road to Paris, they say, was a bumpy one – for me, slightly too literally for my liking. After months of anticipation and planning for our cycle to Paris for COP21, and a morning of fantastic riding through the hills of East Sussex under crisp winter sun, I hit the bumps. Pothole after pothole, in the dark, and I was on the ground. My ride was over, my collar bone broken.

Thankfully the negotiators managed to navigate their metaphorical bumps and hurdles better than I did, and they succeeded in reaching their destination – a global climate agreement.

The 45 other riders on our trip also managed to successfully dodge the potholes. Starting each day early, dreary but full of anticipation, finishing each day exhausted but on a high – until they arrived in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower aptly lit up with the words “Climate Action”.

By Saturday, cyclists and negotiators alike were brimming with a sense of exhausted accomplishment, celebrating their successes in the streets of Paris. But just as I had reason to moan about the outcome of the ride, others found reason to moan about the outcome of Paris agreement.

As I walked around the city, joining in the various celebrations and demonstrations, I was regularly shot down for showing any excitement over the sheer ability for 195 countries to reach agreement on something so complex after so long.

“There’s nothing to be happy about, they’ll never keep to it” was the retort I was so often greeted with.

This frustrates me.

Sure, COP21 doesn’t spell the end of our climate crisis. Whether or not the countries behind it will live up to their emissions reduction targets; whether they’ll really ratchet up their efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C deserves a healthy dose of scepticism.

But who are “they” anyway? Those countries, governments, businesses, and societies – they’re made up of us. People like me, you, your friends and your colleagues.

It’s our role to do everything we can to meet those ambitious but oh-so-important targets.

The negotiators have successfully done their job, now it’s time for all of us to take action, to play our part – not to blame others and shirk responsibility.

“But how?”, you may ask. If you’re Osborne or Cameron, the answer is fairly clear. But chances are you’re not. Chances are you’ll have to start small – writing to your MP, turning off the lights, cycling to the shops, inspiring your friends to do the same.

And perhaps most importantly, encouraging your workplaces to do the same.

These things may seem small and insignificant on the global stage, but as I explained in my TEDx last month, these small steps can be truly transformational.

And one thing’s for sure: you can’t reach your destination without taking those first small steps – bumps or no bumps.

45 people cycled from London to Paris with Climate Kilometre, raising support from friends through pledges on Do Nation. Together, they inspired over 600 pledges of real, meaningful climate action: with people doing simple things like switching energy provider, cycling to work, eating less meat. You can make a pledge here.

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