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COP21 Speech by Laurent Fabius

COP21 | Plenary Session of the European Parliament Speech by Mr Laurent Fabius
COP21 | Plenary Session of the European Parliament Speech by Mr Laurent Fabius, 20 January, 2016

Mr President of the European Parliament,
Mr Vice-President of the European Commission,
Commissioner Cañete,
Members of Parliament,

I would like to thank President Schulz for inviting me, as COP21 President, to set out the main themes of the Agreement adopted in Paris on 12 December last, as well as the steps to come.

2015 was a difficult year for the world and Europe in particular. The Paris Climate Conference, however, was a genuine source of hope. It brought all nations together, which is a rare achievement. It showed that diplomacy, and in certain cases multilateralism, could produce impressive results.

Last October, I had the opportunity to set out before your Environment and Foreign Affairs Committees the criteria for a “good agreement” in Paris. These criteria have been met in the Agreement’s 29 articles and the 140 accompanying decision points. We have secured a universal Agreement, based on the national contributions of 187 countries, which is a considerable achievement.

The COP21 Agreement has been recognized as ambitious: it includes long-term plans to limit global warming to 2°C, a commitment to maintain efforts to reach 1.5°C and carbon neutrality in the second half of the century.

It is a dynamic Agreement: the first global stocktake is planned for 2023 and every five years thereafter, but a review of the pre-2020 efforts will take place in 2018, which will enable discussions on raising our commitments. With regard to monitoring the commitments, a common transparency framework has been defined, with certain flexibility based on each State’s abilities. The Agreement is as legally binding as it could be given the political constraints of several States.

Finally, the Agreement is generally deemed to be fair: the notion of differentiation is present in all issues, and there is solidarity from rich countries towards the most vulnerable ones, within particular the commitment to meet and then exceed the target of US$100 billion per year for these countries, and to set a new specific target by 2025.

These results, which in all honesty few people expected prior to the COP, are in large part down to the Europeans, particularly the Agreement’s level of ambition. I would like to specifically commend your commitment, which was seen in Gilles Pargneaux’s report “Towards a new international climate agreement in Paris” which you adopted in October 2015 shortly before the COP21 Conference, as well as the strong commitment from Commissioner Cañete and Minister Carole Dieschbourg on behalf of the Luxembourg Presidency, but also that of each one of your countries, for which I would like to thank you wholeheartedly.

Aside from the Agreement proper, for the first time at this level the COP21 helped to associate the climate cause with a large number of non-State actors. Over 5,000 cities, regions, businesses, investors and NGOs from 180 countries made commitments. Several ambitious projects, whose 2 impacts will be felt even before 2020, were launched during the Conference. In short, a shift towards low-carbon development was set in motion. I believe it is irreversible. For once, it is no exaggeration to use the word “historic”. In the fight against climate change, there will thus be a “before Paris” and an “after Paris”.


And yet, ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that much remains to be done to clarify and implement this historic Agreement. 2015 was the year for negotiations and decisions, so 2016 must be what I call the year of the “4 P’s”.

  • P for the Process of signing and ratification. On 22 April, the COP21 Agreement will be opened for signature at the United Nations in New York. It must be signed by at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. It would be desirable for as many European and world leaders as possible to be present. The European Union was one of the first to publish its national contribution, in March 2015; it must continue to lead the way, by signing the Paris Agreement on 22 April, and then by ratifying it as soon as possible.
  • The second P is for the Precise details regarding this Paris Agreement and the joint decision. Last December, principles were laid down and targets defined: the goal is to agree on how to translate this into action. This will be the goal next May in Bonn, in the first group meeting for preparing implementing decisions. We must in particular reach a common and precise definition of climate financing, agree on the terms of the five-year stocktake of national commitments and set out rules for transparency in monitoring the commitments.
  • The third P stands for the Pre-2020 period. Aside from the implementation of the Agreement, which is due to enter into force in 2020, it will be necessary to provide monitoring as regards pre-2020 action and what is known as the “Lima-Paris Action Agenda” which brings together the initiatives from States and non-State actors. I am in particular thinking of the “International Solar Alliance” launched by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Modi, and the public-private “Mission Innovation” launched by President Obama and private investors for developing clean technologies. I am thinking of the widespread implementation of early warning systems for disaster and a climate insurance system in vulnerable countries, as well as the protection of tropical forests. I would also like to stress our financial commitments to renewable energies in Africa, which must be quickly and fully honoured. Starting in 2016, significant progress must be made on these specific projects and many others.
  • The final P is the Preparation for COP22 in Marrakesh at the end of 2016. The success of the Paris Conference was helped by close coordination between the Peruvian COP20 Presidency, the French COP21 Presidency and the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We intend to work with our Moroccan friends in the same spirit, in order to ensure success in Marrakesh in November. We will thus together prepare a series of formal and informal meetings using the same method which proved successful in Paris.

In addition to these areas of action, progress must also be made in important sectors which were not included in the Paris Agreement, but for which action is essential.

Air transport: the International Civil Aviation Organization must conclude an agreement on regulating emissions in its sector by September.

Maritime transport: the International Maritime Organization must begin similar work, for which I expect the European Union to provide great support.

In the same vein, an agreement in principle was reached by the parties to the Montreal Protocol in order to prepare in 2016 an amendment aimed at eliminating “HFC” refrigerant gases, which produce heavy greenhouse gas emissions: decisions must be made without delay.

None of these negotiations will be easy, but the success of Paris and the urgency of these essential actions must enable us to also obtain results in these areas.


Members of Parliament,

In light of the positive impetus created by the Paris Agreement, I hope and I am convinced that the European Union will maintain its commitment to preserving our planet. I believe that several initiatives are necessary to do so:

The first initiative is the ratification by the European Union of the Doha Amendment establishing the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. These conditions are now close to being fulfilled, with only a few countries remaining.

The second initiative must address the European Union’s implementation of the mitigation commitments made in Paris for 2030. Several negotiations lie ahead of us, including the reform of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) carbon market and working together in non-ETS sectors such as construction, transport and agriculture. The spirit of unity and responsibility which prevailed in Paris must also be present in our internal discussions. At the Council, France will commit to make progress on these essential issues, in order to be able to demonstrate significant progress as of COP22. It would be of great benefit if the Parliament could also make progress in its decision-making process, particularly for the first reading of the revised ETS directive. We must discuss increasing our future commitments in Europe in order to take account of the technological progress which I am convinced will be even faster than expected.

We must also use the European Energy Union project to achieve energy transition in Europe, focusing on new jobs which can be created, as ecological transition is not just a constraint, it is also a major opportunity. Many texts will be tabled by the Commission in 2016 in order to further this ambitious project. I am in particular thinking of stepping up our commitments in the area of developing renewable energies and energy efficiency. Here too, I am counting on the European Parliament to help us to move forward quickly and to play a full part in confirming the EU’s credibility in international negotiations.

Finally, we must strengthen our European action for sustainable development with our Southern partners. Many of them have committed to take action. Their action will be all the stronger if they have our support. The European Union, which is already the world’s largest donor for the climate, must maintain and if possible increase its support in terms of financing, technology and expertise.


To sum up, there is no doubt, therefore, that the Paris Conference has been a success in the fight against climate change, but the process does not end here. Action must continue and the European Union will take on a special responsibility. In the work ahead, your Parliament will play a major role in nurturing European ambition. I know that you are equal to the task.

My closing words will be to highlight this essential point: the Paris Agreement does not only deal with the climate in the narrow sense of the word; it will serve the environment as a whole, biodiversity, public health, food security and, more broadly, development.

But it is also – and this is rarely highlighted — an Agreement for security and peace. Because we must realize that with food and water shortages, risks of large-scale migration caused by the consequences of global warming and threats from conflicts linked to control over fossil resources, uncontrolled climate change would ultimately lead to widespread conflict.

By refusing to accept this outcome, by turning the world towards renewable and carbon-free energies, the 12 December Agreement is also a peace agreement for current and future generations. In our chaotic, dangerous and uncertain world, this contribution to international security is a major aspect of the COP21 Paris Agreement in which Europe has a major role to play.

Thank you.


Related Article:  Statements made during the Leaders Event at the Paris Climate Change Conference – COP 21

Marrakech Climate Change Conference (COP22) – November 2016

Marrakech Climate Change Conference - November 2016
Marrakech Climate Change Conference (COP22) – November 2016 | Click on the image to visit the COP22 site.

The twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) and the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) will be held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November, 2016.

Marrakech Climate Change Conference (COP22) – November 2016

4 Simple Ways to Meet Our COP21 Targets

by John Brian Shannon | December 29, 2015

COP21: The Paris Agreement is nothing if it isn’t followed-up with concrete action to meet the new emission reduction targets

The COP21 Paris Agreement is the first time that many nations have declared their intent to actually do something in regards to global warming, instead of the vague expressions and hand-wringing that we’ve seen until Paris 2015.

One should rightfully expect that LEADERS from each nation will appear at future COP events to discuss their nations’ successes (and any legitimate failures) as they navigate towards their intended carbon targets.

1. Some nations will seek to meet their COP21 targets via greater ENERGY EFFICIENCY

And that of course, is the best ‘bang for the buck’ route with regards to energy use and CO2 reduction.

No matter how energy is produced, some amount of CO2 will be created. Therefore, each MegaWatt(MW) of energy that remains unused, results in zero CO2 emissions.

COP21 Energy-Savings just ahead
Energy efficiency and energy conservation are the most effective ways to lower airborne emissions. Image courtesy Energy Genesys EU

This can also be the case where a mixed grid employs clean, renewable energy.

Both solar and wind power feature zero emissions as standalone energy generators — however, in a mixed grid with various energy generators, from coal to nuclear, to gas-fired and biomass, and true renewables like hydro-electric, solar and wind — once all of the renewable energy capacity is exceeded, the other electricity generators must then ramp-up to match the total demand of those hours of the day.

See how utility companies choose the type of energy they use to meet electrical demand on a minute-by-minute basis: Merit Order – How Utility Companies Choose Energy

With increased energy efficiency, many MW of electricity will never be required in the first place, therefore, the need for non-renewable energy generation diminishes.

2. LEAVING COAL is the next best way to meet carbon reduction targets

Many people are unaware that natural gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than the dirtiest brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest black coal (anthracite).

Non-CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: Quite apart from Carbon Dioxide emissions, burning coal produces significant amounts of toxic airborne mercury and heavy metal vapours, and toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and the lung-damaging particulates like smoke, ash, and soot.

Then there are the thousands of tons (Alberta only) or millions of tons (globally) of fly ash that must be transported and safely buried far from aquifers.

Obscene water usage levels are also a factor with coal use, as coal requires 1100 gallons of water per MW, while natural gas requires only 300 gallons per MW.

CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: In regards to the Carbon-Dioxide-only component of airborne emissions, burning natural gas emits only 45% of the CO2 compared to coal on a per MW basis.

COP21 Coal-fired electricity generation in the U.S. is responsible for 80% of all U.S. emissions from all sources and causes millions of dollars of additional healthcare spending.
Coal-fired electricity generation in the U.S. is responsible for 80% of all U.S. emissions (from all sources) and is responsible for millions of dollars of additional healthcare spending.

By simply converting every coal power plant in the world to natural gas, global CO2 and toxic airborne emissions would fall by many Gigatonnes.

I suggest that it’s an important enough goal that IMF, ADB, UNDP and UNEP money should be flowing to developing nations to help them convert to natural gas by 2020.

Yes, I said by 2020.

We’re either serious, or we’re enjoying our time at the COP confabs.

It’s time to actually accomplish something on the Earth Atmosphere file, instead of producing more sound bites.

Harvard University Medicine says that coal-fired power generation causes up to half a trillion dollars of damage annually to the U.S. economy. Maybe more. And that’s just in the U.S.A.

See: Harvard Medicine | Full Lifecycle Cost of Coal in the U.S.A.

3. Coal could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem – via significant investment in Coal-to-Liquid (CTL) fuels

Since 1955, South African gasoline (petrol) has been blended with super clean CTL fuel — which has a measurable and positive effect on vehicle emissions in the country.

The percentage of CTL to petrol has been rising over the decades as CTL capacity has increased. SASOL now blends a minimum of 30% CTL fuel into their petrol, which results in a very clean burn and lower engine maintenance.

Some South African airlines use clean CTL (coal oil) as a simple drop-in replacement for conventional petroleum (kerosene) fuel. Unlike conventional aviation fuel, CTL fuel is completely smokeless (and, bonus!) jet engines using CTL fuel require less maintenance.

COP21 SASOL Petrol Station in Cape Town, South Africa
SASOL Petrol Station in South Africa.

CTL fuel blends reduce CO2 emissions for aircraft and cars and light trucks by 50% — and non-CO2 airborne emissions such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter (smoke and soot) are virtually eliminated.

Thanks to the FISCHER-TROPSCH (catalytic) process, super clean-burning CTL fuels can be created from even the dirtiest brown coal.

See: SASOL Coal Gasification and Liquifaction – SA  Experiences and Opportunities (PDF)

4. We can’t have enough renewable energy capacity, especially now that it has attained price parity with conventional energy

See: The Falling Costs of Renewable Energy: No More Excuses (IRENA)

As a long term goal, we need to get to 50% renewable energy and 50% (any combination of natural gas and nuclear) for our primary energy generation in order to hit a reasonable CO2 target of 366PPM (the much advertised 350PPM CO2 target is noble, just that it’s utterly impossible to hit as long as there are 7 billion people on the planet) yet 366PPM is theoretically possible were all the stars were to align, and is a noble enough goal in itself.

COP21 The Falling Costs of Renewable Energy IRENA
The Falling Cost of Renewable Energy. Image courtesy of IRENA.

Many nations have already hit their renewable energy targets, with some exceeding 90% of demand met by renewable energy.

Laos, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Mozambique, Iceland, Albania, Paraguay, Bhutan, Lesotho, Tokelau, all get more than 90% of their primary energy from renewable sources.

Some are now at, or very close to, 100% renewable energy. For instance, Costa Rica hit the 99% renewable energy mark this year. In 2016, Costa Rica is likely to become a renewable energy exporter.

Denmark produced 140% of its primary energy demand in 2015 with renewable energy. Some 40% of Denmark’s electricity was exported to neighbouring countries in exchange for for cold. hard, cash.

And Scotland hit its 2030 target (50% renewable energy) way back in 2014. At the rate Scotland is adding renewable energy to its main grid and microgids, it may reach 100% renewable energy before 2040.

So it can be done.

See: Ahead of Target: Scotland hits 50% Renewable Energy

See: List of Countries by Electricity Production From Renewable Source

SUMMARY: If we as a species, simply increase our total energy efficiency by 30% (a reasonable target) and legislate all coal-fired power generation to convert to natural gas by 2020 (merely accelerating what is already occurring due to market forces) and continue our present level of coal extraction for the purposes of creating super-clean CTL fuels, we would (by those changes alone) give ourselves an extra 15 years to find the best solutions to our pressing airborne emissions problem.

Again, the IMF, ADB, UNDP, UNEP, U.S. Dept of Energy, the EPA, COP21 sponsors, the World Bank and major corporations should be setting a good example with massive investment.

Finally, thanks to Bill Gates for his LEADERSHIP and PHILANTHROPY not only at COP21, but over the past decades — directly improving the lives of many people on this planet and supporting real and positive change in our shared global commons.

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Can We Afford Another Climate Failure?

Can We Afford Another Climate Failure? | November 7, 2015
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Climate scientists say we must decide (at COP 21) to dramatically lower our CO2 emissions or we lose our last opportunity to stop global warming at a scale never before seen.

How many climate scientists, you ask?

A majority of climate papers agree that global warming is real and a looming concern for planet Earth. Image courtesy of James Powell
A majority of climate papers agree that global warming is a looming concern for everyone on planet Earth. Image courtesy of JamesPowell.org

Houston, we have a problem

The question, “Is there any doubt that global warming could threaten plant and animal life on the planet?” no longer seems relevant due to the astounding amount of quality research done in recent years which proves we do, in fact, have a problem.

One wonders about the other question, “Are our politicians up to the task at hand?”

Don’t lose hope! There are some inspiring examples of environmental stewardship in the world

100% Now: Albania, Bhutan, Belize, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iceland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Tokelau, and Zambia, are countries that produce virtually 100% of their primary energy generation (electricity) via renewable energy, while Samoa will hit that standard by 2017. (All of these countries produce a minimum of 95% of their electricity via renewable energy, and all of them have plans to meet their 100% target within a few years. As always, easy access to low-interest financing is one way to enable those targets to be met by 2020)

See: List of countries by electricity production from renewable sources (Wikipedia)

100% by 2021: Costa Rica will hit its renewable energy target by the end of 2021. At present the Costa Rican electricity grid is powered by 94% renewable energy, but many days of the year renewable energy production exceeds 100 percent of demand allowing the country to export surplus electricity.

100% by 2030: Denmark and Scotland and are well on their way to hit 100% clean electricity generation by 2030 — while the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati in the South Pacific expect to become 100% clean energy powered by 2050 including all transportation.

90% Now: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Laos all produce more than 90% of their electricity via renewable energy and have ambitious plans to increase those targets. Limited funding is a factor.

80% Now: Canada produces over 80% of its primary generation from renewable energy (hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations, with assorted minor solar power and wind power installations) but has, so far, has no plan to convert the remaining 20% of its electricity generation to clean energy.

80% by 2025: Nicaragua has an aggressive renewable energy program to replace its primarily fossil fueled primary energy (electricity) with renewable energy. The country is blessed with radiant sunshine, healthy wind resources and volcanoes (geothermal) all it lacks is the financing to accelerate its planned targets.

80% by 2050: Germany, an advanced country of 82 million people gets almost 40% of its annual electricity from wind, solar and biomass power and has an ambitious tw0-track programme underway called Energiewende that is simultaneously a) shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear power stations by 2022 (completely decommissioning them by 2045) and b) replacing that lost power generation with wind, solar, and biomass power.

By 2050 Germany expects to meet 80% of its electricity via renewable energy, and further plans to curtail energy use by 25% due to additional energy efficiency. The scale and speed of transition to clean energy in Germany is astonishing and enjoys broad support among the public.

See: German Renewable Energy Leaves Coal Behind (JBSNews)

20% by 2020: In the United States, primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution.

Excessive carbon pollution is a contributor to climate change. Primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution in the United States.

And, although a slow starter, the United States has made rapid advances toward a cleaner energy grid. Early legislation such as the Clean Air Act (1970, amended 1990) has now been joined by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

See: How the Clean Air Act Has Saved $22 Trillion in Health-Care Costs (The Atlantic)

It’s notable that the U.S. now spends more than any country in the world on its transition to clean energy and is quickly switching out of coal (good) to natural gas (better) and renewable energy (best).

Climate and Carbon: Renewable energy as a proportion of the total U.S. electricity demand (2015)
Climate and Carbon: Renewable energy as a proportion of total U.S. electricity demand (2015) Image courtesy of IER

China has the second-highest spend on renewable energy globally and breaks global solar and wind power installation records every year. By a wide margin.

And yet, all of it together isn’t nearly enough to lower our present carbon emissions to safe levels

Not even close actually, as the carbon bender we’ve been on since 1988 is mind-numbing.

“By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.”

“The Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimates that in 2014, we will release a record 37 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, and manufacturing cement. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over emissions in 2013, itself a record year.”

“This brings the total industrial carbon dioxide emissions since 1751 to an estimated 1480 Gt by the end of this year. And, remarkably, more than half of these emissions, 743 Gt, or 50.2 percent, have released just since 1988.” — , Director of science & policy, Union of Concerned Scientists

See: Global Warming Fact: More than Half of All Industrial CO2 Pollution Has Been Emitted Since 1988 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Climate and Carbon. More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released since 1988. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists
Climate and Carbon. More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released since 1988. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists


Most people are. Some 80% of North Americans want stronger government and corporate action towards cleaner energy, more efficient buildings and electric vehicles. Which is great.

But in 2014, some $548 billion dollars of subsidies were paid or otherwise granted to the world’s fossil fuel corporations. And they’re in no mood to give it up.

Why would they?

Ever since large-scale coal, and oil and gas extraction began around 1920, fossil fuels have been getting massive subsidies relative to their imprint on the economy.

If the plan at COP 21 is to remove those subsidies from the fossil fuel companies, then there is no point in anybody showing up there. At all. Because as far as plans go, that must surely be voted; “Least likely to succeed since there were rocks.”

If the plan is to legislate ever stricter air quality standards (to the point where it has any real effect on total global emissions) get ready to pay even more subsidies — perhaps double. Yet, if that’s the plan, we might be wise to support it as we don’t have a second Earth to fall back on.

A more effective plan would be to leave fossil fuel subsidies at their present level and begin to match renewable energy subsidies to the fossil fuel subsidy rate, based on the barrel of oil equivalent (BOe) standard and let the market work on a level-playing-field basis

In that way ‘fossil fuel companies’ would morph into ‘energy companies’ — instead of remaining coal-only, oil-only, or natural gas-only companies.

Stand back and watch the CO2 emissions fall through the floor if that ever happens! Standardizing renewable energy subsidies to match coal, oil and natural gas subsidies, means that real and profound change would begin to take place throughout our energy sector.

It should be pointed out that a very good case could still be made for keeping natural gas alive and thriving (with the same subsidy regime) to fuel the transportation sector.

See: Energy Darwinism – The Case for a Level Playing Field (JBS News)

Climate and Carbon. Global fossil fuel subsidies vs. global renewable energy subsidies (2014)

Because of the (over-hyped) variability of renewable energy (the Sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow) a massive shift towards natural gas (hundreds of times cleaner than coal, BTW) or battery storage will be needed to balance electrical demand. Perhaps both.

Natural gas (CNG) cars and trucks are affordable right now and can use the present distribution system as gasoline and diesel vehicles, while battery technology approaches the point of affordable battery systems for cars and trucks.

See: Clean Energy: Renewables & Natural Gas Powered Electricity Grids (JBS News)

Although there is reason for hope at COP 21 in December 2015, the examples above represent only a handful of nations acting on the scientific warnings about global warming

There are almost 200 other nations that must become convinced of the need to act on climate change this December, and many of them will be negatively affected by sea level rise, drought/heat waves, premature deaths caused by air and water pollution (China 410,000 per year, the U.S. over 200,000 per year, and Europe over 400,000 per year) and desertification.

See: Air Pollution Costs the West Almost $1 Trillion/yr (JBSNews)

Now that we have broad and deep consensus by climate scientists that global warming represents an existential threat to our planet, all that is required is the will to act.

Let’s hope our politicians are bigger than the looming environmental maelstrom our civilization faces.

Climate and Carbon: Rooftop solar installation in Standard, CA the birthplace of California's oil industry. See? There is reason for optimism!
Climate and Carbon: Rooftop solar installation in Standard, California — the birthplace of California’s oil industry! See? There is reason for optimism.

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