Canadian climate activist Tzeporah Berman imagines a future where she will sit with her grandchildren and explain there was a time not long ago when we filled cars with gasoline and chopped down forests to get at oil.

“And they will barely believe me because the world will be such a different place,” she said.

Berman’s vision for a carbon-free future was broadcast to the world from a dimly lit stage in Glasgow on Oct. 13 where she was one of seven international speakers chosen to present at the TED Countdown Summit. Her message was clear-eyed but ultimately upbeat: “We are capable of enormous change within our lifetimes.”

Berman, the Vancouver-based international program director at Stand.earth, spoke about the need to divest from oil, gas, and coal and how fossil fuel non-proliferation treaties can help us get there.

She’s part of the steering committee of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty campaign, which has garnered support from 132,737 individuals and over 800 organizations. The group calls for a worldwide treaty to phase out gas, oil, and coal, and support for workers during the transition. Berman stressed the need for action is immediate and will require “unprecedented international co-operation in three main areas — non-proliferation, global disarmament, and a peaceful, just transition.”

Berman’s talk comes just weeks before COP26, this year’s UN climate conference, which some policy and climate experts are billing as our “last hope” for meeting the world’s Paris Agreement goal.

The conference — also known as COP, short for Conference of the Parties — has brought the world together since 1995 to hammer out agreements to reduce global warming. The talks gather policymakers, scientists, environmental activists, climate experts, and news media from the 197 member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to set and work towards global climate change goals. This year, COP26 will take place at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.

For Canada — the only G7 country other than the U.S. where emissions have risen every year since the Paris Agreement — COP26 could nudge decision-makers towards making fathomable climate promises. Right now, Berman said the globe is set to produce 120 per cent more fossil fuels over the next decade than the level necessary to stay below the Paris target of 1.5 C. And she cautioned that even if we stop new fossil fuel development, existing projects would still push us past our warming target.

“A fossil fuel treaty will help us wind down the production of fossil fuels. It will provide a complement and help us achieve the goals of the Paris accord,” said Berman.

“It is a big, bold, new idea. But at this moment in history, we need some big, bold, new ideas.”

The theme of the TED event was “Imagining,” which Christiana Figueres said means looking beyond the effects of climate change. Figueres, who was the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during the 2015 Paris Agreement, said, although it’s important to understand the breadth of climate change impacts, more information needs to come forward on what should be happening to address it.

Tzeporah Berman is part of the steering committee of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty campaign, which has garnered support from 132,737 individuals and over 800 organizations. The group calls for a worldwide treaty to phase out #FossilFuels.
Host Christiana Figueres at the TED Countdown Summit. Photo courtesy of Ryan Lash / TED

Without that information, it's very difficult to imagine a different world, let alone how to create it, she said.

“So here at Countdown, we would like to paint a collective image of a much better world so that each of us can then decide for ourselves how close or how far are we from that future. But above all, we really want to encourage you to focus on how (we can) accelerate the transformation that we need.”

During her speech, Berman pointed out the Paris Agreement doesn’t mention fossil fuels directly and noted since 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has continued to subsidize the oil and gas industry. That shows the federal government may be regulating emissions, but not the production of fossil fuels, she said.

“For decades, our countries have been negotiating targets. But behind our backs, the fossil fuel industry has been growing production and locking in further emissions,” said Berman, explaining that she soon found how few frameworks exist to regulate fossil fuel production.

That is why it’s so important to not let governments off the hook, said Berman. Wealthy countries like Canada, the U.S., and Norway need to lead the way by divesting from fossil fuels first. She said the United Kingdom cannot call itself a climate leader if it signs off on the looming permit for Cambo oilfield, a controversial drilling project in the North Sea.

And yet there is hope. A number of cities including Berman’s hometown of Vancouver, Barcelona, Sydney, Spain, and Los Angeles have endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Berman acknowledged those who criticize the treaty as too ambitious and said campaign founders are aware it will be difficult to get oil-producing countries on board. However, she said a similar sentiment circled around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed in the late 1960s by 191 UN member states, including the five nuclear-weapon states: the U.S., China, France, Russia, and the U.K.

At the end of her talk, Berman remembered a conversation she had with her grandmother when she was feeling particularly discouraged about the state of the world and climate change. Her grandmother's description of the unfathomable change she had seen throughout her life reminded her the same is possible in 2021.

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first we have to imagine a future without fossil as better. the fossil industry has "gas lit" us that without fossil it will be grim. JUST NOT TRUE!!

Exactly. The definition of "grim" will be the ongoing effects of climate change descending, unabated. It's a good point that imagination needs to be sparked more, but it also all comes down to how successful we are at keeping the dangerous right wing at bay...

Another Canadian, Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, will be a prominent figure at COP26 promoting a vision for the financial sector to ‘solve’ the problem. His recent book Value(s) describes in detail the current state of the financial sector response to the crisis and the mechanisms being built to do this. An example of how big the challenge is can be seen in the multitude of definitions for how to account for a company’s ESG status. It’s all over the map. Another problem is his faith in the ‘dynamism’ of market capitalism to come up with creative solutions like carbon capture and storage. I would like to see the National Observer investigate Mr Carney’s positions before the great machine of the Main Stream Media tells us how but into the plan.

I think he's very much on our side though, bottom line, and a rare asset when he's so definitively conversant with world finance, not to mention highly respected there. That's huge. And I think his faith in the "dynamism of market capitalism" may be one of those sparks for the imagination that's needed.

I completely agree.

I am part ways through 'Value(s)' and so far I am very impressed. Carney, unlike anyone else in the world I can think of, is ideally positioned to address the world's and Canada's financial sectors directly in their own language (and backed by decades of highly-respected expertise) on their ability and willingness to decarbonize their portfolios, write effective transition plans and develop the tools and mechanisms to help finance it all.

One of his key messages is that time is running out to bring emissions down without going bankrupt.

It's unfortunate that in the age of Zoom, Facetime and Skype -- which have greatly expanded their services during the pandemic -- and the local presence of many professional, affordable video, audio and master mixing studios with 5K HD capability, that the courageous and intelligent Tzeporah Berman felt it necessary to jet all the way to Scotland simply to record a video and schmooze. I would hope that she and Stand.earth will follow up by publishing their rationale for jetting vs Zooming and provide details on the effectiveness of their chosen carbon offset organization and their particular plan for that trip -- if they purchased one.

Let's also hope that COP doesn't turn out to be a COVID spreader event, let alone another massive failure to conduct bold acts after once again exuding lofty world-scale rhetoric. Some urbanists like me are on the cusp of concluding that we're hooped and need to prepare for three degrees, not 1.5 or two-point-something. And that preparation will likely be more local and regional than national or international and will involve life-saving land use planning and urban design that require the complete rehabilitation of cities, farming, transportation, mining and forestry.

If folks want to truly feel good about fighting climate change, then put on industrial ear protection when the politicians and paid, jetting climate leaders are on the COP stage talking away. Take them off after and praise only the very few who follow up with appropriate deeds and workable ideas over time. Feeling good about the generously paid chinwagging is useless and more than disappointing unless it's followed up with an actual, workable detailed National Transition Plan backed by a defendable budget and a courageous schedule of action, not some broad fist-in-air manifesto for the select Left, or Peace In Our Time exclamatory piece of paper with a couple hundred cheap n' easy signatures on it that will only be done again at yet another COP conference a few years from now when the world carbon budget has been spent.

David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Al Gore and many other environmentalists have been rightly slammed for their cavalier use of jet travel to join climate protests in Paris and well-paid speaking engagements all over the world without putting their travel rationale up front, or even mentioning it in their videos, talks and books. Maybe there's a pull down menu somewhere on their websites that one has to work to find, but it sure ain't up front. These folks are targeted constantly by fossilizers in every media for their hypocrisy on jet travel. It's time to be forthcoming and provide the public and supporters with a valid counter argument for jet travel right up front. Put up or shut up, stay home and travel digitally. George Monbiot does it, why can't they?

There are some carbon offset companies and organizations that have auditable plans and options. Even so, jet travel should be considered only as a last resort by climate fighters who are true to their word, especially during a world wide pandemic, and the decision must be backed by actual carbon offset data and audited results disclosed for each trip.

They also need to start following the lead of an increasing contingent of climate scientists who on principle refuse to travel by air any more to international science conferences, no matter how tempting the locale or lucrative the engagement.

What I'd really like is for all these "climate" events to tally their carbon footprints and publish them.

I think that what you say in the context of of past such meetings is somewhat understandable; everyone is beyond jaded and weary, not to mention angry, disappointed, and scared actually but in light of what feels like some genuine shifting finally happening, finally, I think that some serious rallying of the troops can be seen as timely and inspiring. Especially when those troops have the credibility of David Suzuki or Naomi Klein with literal decades of concerted effort; with Suzuki it's been the underpinning of his whole life and he's now an old man. Such iconic leadership is extremely rare and therefore valuable. As a truly heroic proponent for our precious environment, Suzuki, when paired with the youthful but Yoda-like Greta Thunberg for example, the integrity of humanity feels fully represented. This star power is worth a few plane trips under the circumstances; people need to be moved more than ever right now.
So I think ragging on the fact that they're flying is rather petty, on a par with citing everyday individual actions generally.

Maintaining principles is not petty. Even David Suzuki cited the fact in a CBC interview that he is frequently asked with sarcasm in airports if he flies in an electric airplane. He did not provide an answer to that question, which of course would be No and would lead to another: What are you doing about your emissions? I am sure that the foundations and organizations these individuals belong to have a budget to invest in carbon offsets, but why are they not putting this info up front with a description or even a declaration that they try to minimize if not eliminate flying, considering the ease of digital travel today?

As for the otherwise admirable Ms. Berman, she flew nearly 20 hours on one return trip in a wide-body jet, likely a direct flight from Vancouver. She likely did not fly alone, or fly economy class. This represents several tonnes of CO2 and other GHGs injected directly into to the atmosphere in a short period of time.

Placing these facts in the open discussion boards is not "ragging" because I am very keen to also indicate that she and Stand.earth otherwise do great work. But it would be very informative for Stand followers, donors and the readers of their media opinion pieces to understand how often the members fly, and what are they doing to remediate the emissions. Supporters and the public deserve to know. We simply don't have the information to categorically state that these flights are "occasional," extended while combined with family vacations, or a lot more often than admitted.

In the interest of disclosure, we two seniors have had two overseas return flights in our lifetimes. We didn't purchase carbon offsets, but my more recent research indicates that Gold Standard, based in Switzerland, has audited carbon offset investments that work as intended. Getting older makes it difficult to predict if we'll book a third trip to Europe after the pandemic is over, but if we do we will buy offsets that will by far exceed the estimated carbon output. While there we do not fly, but take public transit and electric intercity trains. There are very few if any additional overseas or domestic flights for us in the years ahead. In all respects our lifetime carbon budget is below the Canadian average. I do not make a living from preaching about the climate fight (let alone blasting capitalism), but if I did then personal / company carbon offsets and the effort to minimize flight and high-carbon lifestyles would be prominently public.

Lastly, my favoured heroes are not climate-fighting aviators or generously paid celebrity talking heads, but the wise climate scientists who quietly practice what they preach by not flying, and without remuneration for international speechifying beyond strictly professional, non-political events. These are the people that provide the core source of information and research that climate celebrities depend on.

Greta is an inspiration for youth. Bless her. Note that she never flies while getting her message out.

And you might add that registration to attend Berman's TED Talk costs $10,000 - ten thousand dollars. Not many of the 99% in that audience!

I shake my head.

Basic equipment for a home recording studio is quite affordable. Many top drawer musicians were forced to stop giving live concerts due to COVID, and now must rely on performing and teaching on YouTube for income.

Some record audio and video remotely with other musicians in different locations, whether next door or on another continent. The recordings are of professional quality with the audio recorded and mixed through affordable home computer-based programs like Logic Pro, Studio One, Abelton and Pro Tools. Video editing programs are also widely available and affordable for home studios. Complex, high quality 4K HD video and audio files can be uploaded to FTP or sharing sites where they can be downloaded, edited and mastered by a producer in a professional studio. Otherwise, the files can be uploaded to the musician's YouTube channel.

Those who think remote and home recording is clumsy and unprofessional need to do more research. Here is a magical Feb. 2020 video of a trio of master guitarists led by Montreal's Antoine Dufour, all recorded remotely and perfectly synchronized:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2vCii90dbk

On climate change, some YouTubers have a big lead over activists who seem to feel entitled to jet travel and paid speaking engagements all over the world. Dave Borlace has his own YouTube channel under the 'Just Have a Think' handle that is outstanding for its background research and video editing capabilities. He runs it out of his home and as far as I can tell, doesn't travel to foreign conferences. Yet his understanding of the science and his communication skills are superb. He accepts donations and has a Patreon account, which provides him with the funding to do the hard research on climate-related topics and present it in weekly 10-15-minute ad-free videos. What I like about Borlace is that he is not evangelical or political, doesn't preen and strut, isn't out to sell us something and sticks primarily to very effective nuts and bolts solutions and analyses.

https://www.youtube.com/c/JustHaveaThink/featured

In the days of climate and COVID why on Earth are TED and COP even having physical conferences? Why couldn't TED accept and upload a video of Tzeporah Berman's talk and others and post them on a website? Why can't Stand.earth and other organizations build or rent a studio to develop its own professional quality videos, using the funds otherwise slated for jet travel with more than enough left over to hire a researcher or two, and to purchase HD video footage from other sites or, for example, hire drone operators via email transactions to fly over the moonscape tar sands? Why can't they come to grips with giving up flight altogether and do video conferencing and production instead?

These are valid questions that will not be easily dismissed.

And we are on track to double plus 20% oil production AND maintain 1.5 degrees. Pipe dream. We will be lucky to keep under 3 degrees