Its taken me a long time to come back to the blogosphere since my last post, for several reasons, the biggest of them being the Paris climate talks. I’ve really struggled- and still do struggle- with what they actually mean for us on a global and a personal level.
On the one hand, there were some incredible agreements made at the talks. 195 countries came together and actually agreed, in principal, to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And we all agreed to monitoring and reporting requirements to keep track of how we are doing. That’s stunning. That’s a global admission that we agree climate change mitigation is a collective responsibility. I think the international community of climate activists was hoping we’d get there, but I don’t know that we fully believed it really would happen, until it did.
BUT- of course there’s a but. But the pledges we have made in this historic agreement are not binding. They are voluntary “intended nationally determined contributions” set by each country. They will not, by themselves, get us to holding the line at 1.5 C, even if every single country actually meets their target. And that’s quite frankly a shaky foundation on which to build so important an agreement. But it is at least a good starting point: as Bill McKibben said, “Paris did not save the planet… but it may perhaps have saved the chance of saving the planet.”
The pressure is still very much on all of us to accelerate and push from below to guide us as quickly as possible towards a new global energy pathway. As McKibbin also articulated, ” “Every government seems now to recognize the fossil fuel era must end, and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.”
Even though I don’t tend to be a resolutions person, I am committing in 2016 to keep on keeping on in the fight against climate change. More than anything, what I take away from the Paris talks is that we cannot sit back and rest on the laurels of this agreement. As hard-fought and important as these talks were, they are not enough, and they risk becoming empty words if we do not work tirelessly to hold them up to the light, insist on their realization, and lift them up on the shoulders of millions of everyday activists that are engaged in a living future.