When we attended Durban Business Day on Monday, UN Climate Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres finished her update on COP17 negotiations by saying, “There’s no way we can move forward until government and the private sector work together.” Then she asked for a moment to give an “advertisement” and invited us to the launch of the “Momentum for Change Initiative” in the Plenary Hall the following night, and promised a “surprise.”
After two weeks of rumors and press reports that Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio would be in Durban for the climate talks, I have to admit we got our hopes up for those stars being the surprise Figueres promised. Kevin, after all, had heard people talking in Japanese in the buffet line at breakfast and all he could understand from their conversation were the words “Angelina Jolie.”
I resolved to go to the Momentum launch. After a closed session in the King Protea Plenary Hall, hundreds of us pressed to get the best seats, where negotiators sat earlier discussing the implementation of agreements made at COP16 in Cancún, the Green Climate Fund and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
I sat down in the center of about the fourth row, got my camera and Tweet Deck ready, and wondered, “Which way is Angelina going to come from?” The first two rows were reserved for dignitaries, and when they filed in, everyone rose and half of the hundreds of us snapped photos. I spotted Figueres talking to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, COP17 President Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (my online research revealed she is just three days younger than I am) and took a bunch of very blurry photos. Everyone rose again when South African President Jacob Zuma entered the room.
Then the program began, with British economist Lord Nicholas Stern moderating a program featuring Figueres (at left; Stern called her “the life force behind this event”), Mashabane (in photo below), Ban and Zuma.
I’ll get to the point. There was no Angelina Jolie, no Leonardo DiCaprio. But there was a shiny example of the public-private partnerships Figueres pushed for on Monday. The Momentum for Change Initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will spotlight examples of successful public-private partnership climate adaptation and mitigation projects around the globe. We saw a well-produced video highlighting 10 projects benefiting the urban poor in South Africa, Ethiopia, Seychelles (archipelago north of Madagascar), the Philippines, Brazil, Kenya, Uganda, India and China. The projects range from LED street lighting in China to solar development in rural India to soda bottle lighting in the Philippines. I’d seen an example of this a few weeks ago in a “Liter of Light” video forwarded around EnviroMedia by Associate Creative Director Antoine Harris.
Be sure to watch Momentum for Change videos (which were just posted by the UN Secretariat as I write this blog). You’ll see the real stars don’t come from Hollywood but from around the world, illuminating the way forward for positive change with these “Lighthouse Projects.” Featured in the top photo, these climate stars were welcomed to the stage at the end of the Tuesday night program. Bravo to Figueres for pushing for an unprecedented, progressive educational platform from the UN Climate Change Secretariat.