After some initial optimism based on early reports, it’s clear that we didn’t get what we needed from Paris.
A surprising number of politicians and activists are upbeat, e.g. Avaaz:
Victory! The end of fossil fuels has begun…
World leaders at the UN climate talks have just set a landmark goal that can save everything we love!
This is what we marched for, what we signed, called, donated, messaged, and hoped for: a brilliant and massive turning point in human history.
It’s called net-zero human emissions — a balancing of what we release into the air and what is taken out — and when the dust settles and the Paris Agreement is in the hands of lawmakers, clean energy will be the best, cheapest, and most effective way to keep their promise. This gives us the platform we need to realize the dream of a safe future for generations! …
This includes our own Greens:
Green Party welcomes the Paris Agreement
The Green Party has welcomed the Paris climate agreement saying New Zealand must now honour the commitment it made in Paris with action at home.
“There’s no doubt this is an historic moment,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw, who is at the talks.
“It’s not a perfect deal by any means and there are lots of details to work out but it’s frankly an incredible achievement.” …
Sadly, the fact is that we didn’t get what we needed from Paris. Here’s the key point:
The overall agreement is legally binding, but some elements – including the pledges to curb emissions by individual countries and the climate finance elements – are not.
If it’s not legally binding in these crucial aspects it might as well be a wet bus ticket. Our own useless government – which couldn’t lead a buzzy bee – has already made it clear that we won’t be seriously addressing our emissions in NZ. Here’s James Hansen:
James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’
The former Nasa scientist criticizes the talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, as ‘no action, just promises’
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
Here’s a pretty balanced summary from George Monbiot:
Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.
Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated.
Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks. As the preamble to the agreement acknowledges, even 2C, in view of the weak promises governments brought to Paris, is wildly ambitious. Though negotiated by some nations in good faith, the real outcomes are likely to commit us to levels of climate breakdown that will be dangerous to all and lethal to some.
The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment.
So yes, let the delegates congratulate themselves on a better agreement than might have been expected. And let them temper it with an apology to all those it will betray.
Not with a bang, but a whimper.