Fernando Meirelles has been at COP21, the world climate conference that’s taking place in Paris, and wrote this article for Folha de São Paulo:


Fernando Meirelles     He’s an architect, cinema and TV director, farmer and with each passing day more of an environmentalist.


New environmental consciousness could be on the way


12/13/2015  2:03 am


The cards are on the table. The good news is that this time all the countries are onboard.


The deal is better than we expected with 1.5°C cited for the first time as the new ceiling for global warming and a commitment of at least 100 billion dollars a year dedicated to adapting to and mitigating the way in which the climate will affect the poorest countries.


The bad news is that if all the countries fulfill what they’re proposing in their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), the planet could heat up between 2.7°C and 3.3°C, which would be a catastrophe.


To sum up: congratulations on the agreement, but it’s a piece of shit. There is, however, a window of hope in the five year revised emission targets for each country.   


If these targets are more ambitious than the current ones, it will still be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C.  That’s very bad, but it’s the best we can do.


It’s very bad because, under this scenario, many species of coral will die, and there’s going to be an enormous loss of life and biodiversity in the oceans.


Glaciers will disappear which will lead to hundreds of millions of climate refugees and associated conflicts. The sea level may rise up to a meter. Will Copacabana survive this? Droughts, floods, but I’ll stop there.


I’ll spare you the list of what awaits us and give you a general idea of what it was like to observe COP21 and its parallel events up close.


When all of this became unbearable, our escape was the “Observer” warehouse where hundreds of NGOs, research institutes, universities, banks and representatives of civil society were showing the progress of their projects.


The number of people involved in some aspect of climate change has been growing with each gathering. Everyone’s aware of this as well as the presence of a certain mood of euphoria in the air.


There are projects for artificial floating islands to receive refugees from flooded coasts, as well as new methods of construction, and even campaigns to save the wetlands.


During a panel discussion about the financing of projects, a speaker from Harvard said we’re living through an intellectual revolution.


He identified and showed us that over the last three years there’s been a change in the attitude of business, which is understandable.


They say that trillions of dollars in investment will be needed for us to adapt to our new situation.


The acronyms vary depending on who’s doing the talking, but one thing for certain is that the world´s money is going to change hands during the next decade. The competitors in this race are already off and running, and many of them were in Paris.


The market is monoglot and it’s already speaking this language. For us mere mortals, it’s good to know that many people will become billionaires overnight selling photovoltaic panels or batteries, leaving the Arabs out in the cold, so to speak.




Cities, transport, the recovery of degraded land, the replanting of forests and agriculture were just some of the event’s main themes.


It’s a pity Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture Kátia Abreu hasn’t joined her colleagues here. Her area is responsible for 20% of the world´s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s true that her presence has been felt: in October she launched a project called “The Sustainable Countryside” which seeks out healthy practices for small and medium sized producers.


26 million dollars were spent on healthy practices, compared with 94.5 billion dollars spent by the agriculture industry, which spends most of this on fertilizers and agrotoxins.


Nitrogen fertilizers release nitrous oxide (N2O), one of the gases that most contributes to the greenhouse effect.


As you can see, Brazil is very good at the meetings, but in practice it’s another story.


Among the impressive projects I’ve seen is the Great Green Wall, which is a strip of planted trees 17 miles wide and 4,000 miles long which will span Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, passing through 12 countries.


Its purpose is to contain the encroaching Sahara Desert and create a green axis which will provide food and jobs for its inhabitants.


The 100 billion dollars a year of help could get this and other good projects off the ground.


At least this way there could be a positive side to this crisis: transforming it into opportunity.




During the ’70s, we talked about the coming end of the world and the arrival of the Age of Aquarius, when a new consciousness would arise. There was a real chance of global nuclear war destroying our planet, but after this period I never thought about this subject again. Until now. I’ve realized that there are already many people who will have to live with catastrophe.


We know that when faced with catastrophe, something clicks in the human heart or soul and we begin to act as a group and not as individuals.


At times like these, no one spares any effort in giving, piling up sandbags, or jumping in to rescue someone who’s been buried in mud.


I felt this sentiment at COP21. Seeing thousands of people circulating in the corridors trying to find solutions, proposing other economic systems or trying to recover what’s already considered lost, it occurred to me that at the end of it all, this could be the arising of a new consciousness. It isn’t just work.


It starts from the bottom up, but it seems like its finally touching those on top. The prognosis is still grim, but there’s something new and promising in the air. A will to act. Perceiving this has been my redemption.