The New Paltz Climate Action Coalition (NPCAC) hosted the Walkway to Paris informational event at the Walkway Over the Hudson last Friday.
The event was designed to facilitate a dialogue on issues related to global warming and climate change between presenters and community members.
The event’s design is the creation of Dan Guenther, founder of Phillies Bridge Farm and member of NPCAC.
Guenther said that he envisioned an event that allowed community members to “walk along the Walkway to talk to students, professors, climate scientists, and politicians,” creating an educational venue.
Presenters in attendance included Catskill Mountain Keeper, Citizens for Local Power, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, NPCAC, and New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
The event precedes the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 11 in Paris.
High-level ministers from over 190 nations will meet to discuss a new global agreement on climate change. This agreement is likely to address the 2 degree Celsius increase above pre-industrial levels. This increase marks what scientists consider to be an acceptable temperature. Current projections estimate an increase of 5 degrees Celsius unless measures are taken.
The roots of global climate policy reach back to 1992, when representatives of developed nations met in Rio de Janeiro and established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Kyoto Protocol was drafted in 1997 after years of discussions facilitated by the UNFCCC. The protocol required countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5 percent of levels recorded in 1990.
A stipulation designed into the protocol barred its implementation, however. The protocol could not come into effect until countries responsible for 55 percent of the total global emissions ratified it.
The United States, the world’s largest emission producer, did not sign the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore countries that did not meet the agreed upon emission levels were not penalized.
In 2009 another conference was held in Copenhagen. This time, all developed countries in attendance agreed to limit their emissions, an unprecedented deal.
The agreement was barred from ratification by the UN, however. However from what the press have described as chaos in the last moments of the conference. Although a form of the agreement was ratified in 2010 during the Cancun agreements.
The majority of the Walkway to Paris presenters shared a common message: action at the local and individual level.
“If everyone did a little bit on their own it would make a big difference,” said Samantha Verdecchia, a third-year at SUNY New Paltz and attendee at the NPCAC.
A presenter from Bard College brought a board to the Walkway with an illustration of relatively simple modifications made to home windows and lighting fixtures that conserve heating and electrical energy.
“When people hear of these big movements they tend to ask ‘What can I do?’ Often people think, ‘nothing.’ They tend to leave it to a larger entity and be passive about it,” said SUNY New Paltz fourth-year Anna Norm.
On Nov. 12 the NPCAC is hosting a meeting on energy in Kingston, New York.