NorthNothing and everything and not enough has changed in the six years since the Paris climate agreement and summit. The four players in our climate future – climate chaos, climate activism, climate solutions, and climate finance – are still on a playing field full of floods, flames, and false solutions. Two of them are fleeing the catastrophe, one runs towards it and the fourth is undecided.
Uncontrolled climate change itself has gotten worse – we’re seeing chaos and destruction, melting ice, and the first signs of systemic collapse of ocean currents, ice sheets, and much more. Both the climate movement and practical solutions have become much stronger, more ambitious, more capable, more diverse. Climate finance has worked both ways: Too much money is still injected into the fossil fuel industry, but there have been significant successes for governments, development banks and private investors to cut funding and rethink the industry as fundamentally criminal. .
Today, 2015 seems like an eternity, before the climate monsters Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro became heads of government, before the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion and the public protests of Greta Thunberg, before so many floods, so many fires , so many broken heat records. We stopped talking about climate chaos as the future and recognized it as the present.
And yet so little has happened since then, in the sense that the Paris treaty is a commitment to “keep the rise in global average temperature well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels and to make efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. ” industrial levels ”and“ make financial flows consistent with a path to low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development ”. Nations are not meeting their commitments, although they are making new ones, and the Glasgow summit can and should be an occasion to set firmer goals and commitments that really mean them this time. We are still on a superhighway past 2C.
There have been a lot of specific victories lately. In September, China pledged to stop building coal-fired power plants abroad. That month, the US, the EU and eight other nations launched a methane reduction treaty which is likely to get new signatories before or at the Glasgow summit. Many fossil fuel projects have been canceled and the industry is in crisis, with coal corporations going bankrupt, big oil companies losing value and stock position, and fossil fuels are generally seen as a declining industry.
In May, the generally boring International Energy Agency called for “a complete transformation of the way we produce, transport and consume energy” to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C or less (six years ago, the Paris originally aimed at two degrees; it was protests from the Climate Vulnerable Forum nations that changed the goals.) It is just released World Energy Outlook 2021 The report furthers those goals, calling for a plan in which “no new oil and gas fields are approved for development, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required” thanks to “a massive transition in the way that we produce and consume energy ”. The optimistic version would be that this transition needs to grow in speed and scale; the pessimist is that you must start in earnest.
Six years ago, I met Steve Kretzmann, a fossil fuel policy expert and founder of Oil Change International, within the press department of Cop21 in Paris. When I contacted him the other day, he reiterated the urgent need to stop the extraction and use of fossil fuels: “We have to lower the dial on fossil fuels and we are not doing it yet. As we watch impacts and awareness accelerate, we are not reducing the share of fossil fuels in total energy. We have to accept that winning on climate means phasing out the fossil fuel industry. “Renewables, he notes, have grown, but adding a new energy source is not automatically subtracting from an old one. That subtraction is crucial. .
Varshini Prakash, CEO and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, launched in earnest in 2018, now with 400 centers in the US, agreed that we must scale: “For decades, people have been ignoring the climate crisis and we are watching to our communities. suffer as a result. Just two or three years ago, the climate crisis and climate justice were thought to be a political loser, no one wanted to touch him with a 100 foot pole. That is no longer true and it is because we agitated, organized and cornered these politicians in all the places where they were … We have come a long way, but let’s be clear: the climate crisis does not qualify on the curve. and neither do we. We have to go much faster, much further if we want to avoid catastrophic damage. “
I also spoke with 350.org co-founder and CEO May Boeve, who offered a more optimistic view and told me that “activists who keep hope are always very important, because making sense of our success and impact is very difficult to achieve. compare with these peaks. The COP is the scoreboard and not the game; it is the moment when collective attention is focused on the climate and it is a way of taking stock ”. And then he speculated on the unknowns of what will happen in Glasgow: who will disrupt the status quo, who will take risks that will push others to expand their commitments. And of the dangers, now that the battle over whether climate change is real is over, of the “false commitments that do not prevent fossil fuels from being burned.”
Glasgow has to be a turning point, a point where nations change at full speed (a metaphor that still works with electric vehicles). The call is to change the world and work is entirely possible. But the longer we wait, the more difficult it becomes, the more doors slam shut, the more devastation takes hold of us, the more it becomes too late for some places, species, systems. Looking back at 2015, it is disheartening to see that we are still so close to the starting line of the race.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism