There are lots of discouraging things one could say about the agreement – like the reduction targets aren’t binding (at the insistence of the U.S., because that would have made it a treaty that the Senate would have to ratify, which of course it wouldn’t, given that the Republicans’ main goal has been all along to defeat President Obama’s agenda, never mind pass anything themselves). It also relegated to the preamble, and took out of the main body of the document, references to indigenous rights and women’s equality, without which achieving true climate justice will be much more difficult.
Some critics even say that the whole thing is a charade, because world leaders waited so long to take real action that keeping the earth from warming 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels is going to be almost impossible to achieve, never mind the 1.5 degree limit.
But I like how Bill McKibben, writer, climate activist and co-founder of 350.org, put it so succinctly (paraphrasing): the Paris agreement doesn’t save the planet, but it makes it possible to maybe save the planet in the future.
On the Monday after the close of the Paris summit, fossil fuel stocks in the U.S. closed lower, while renewable energy stocks closed higher. This is the trend, helped along by the incredibly successful fossil fuel divestment movement.
One thing that wasn’t mentioned at the summit was the need to keep 80 percent of remaining fossil fuels in the ground, but that’s exactly what we must do if we have any hope of staving off climate catastrophe. There were two main chants at the end of the Boston rally, as several hundred of us took over the streets between the Common and Faneuil Hall: “The People, the planet and peace over profit,” and once we got there, “Get up, get down, keep fossil fuels in the ground!” And we have to, at the same time, promote energy efficiency and renewables.
British writer George Monbiot put it well when he said, in an interview on Democracy Now, “… there is not the commitment to leave fossil fuels in the ground. And simply developing new renewables, new technologies, while continuing to use the old ones, is like going on a diet and say, 'Well, OK, I might have eaten six Big Macs and an entire Black Forest gâteau today, but I also had a salad.' You’ve got to stop eating the Big Macs and stop eating the Black Forest gâteau, if you’re going to lose that weight. And it’s just the same here with climate change. The key task is to leave the fossil fuels in the ground.”
That’s going to be the demand going forward. I don’t know if we’ll succeed, but I do believe the climate movement – which includes millions of people around the world, at minimum – is on the ascendancy.
For a nice 5-minute video montage of the December 12 rally, go here:
And for all kinds of great coverage of the Paris climate summit and what comes next, visit www.Democracynow.org and www.350.org.