Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Paris agreement

Classified as: politics

A quick note - I haven't written much on the blog lately, but this is a historic moment. Countries have agreed to try to limit global warming to below 2C and to aim for 1.5C in the Paris agreement. It is not binding and some people have expressed great cynicism about it, including James Hansen who suggested it was "bullshit".

Lenore Taylor in the Guardian, describing herself as a "cynical optimist" thinks it might "just be enough to start turning the tide".

I think it could be also. It is just a start and we have to keep working, we can't take the pressure off, but it is a start.

More later.

Belated update- here's a few more reactions:

The One Million Women blog saw the Paris Agreement as an "extraordinary achievement' but also noted the gap between what countries have pledged to do and what they need to do. Current pledges on emissions won't even keep warming to 2C let alone the safer target of 1.5C, so countries urgently need to increase their emissions reductions targets.

Reneweconomy was very positive, saying:

Years from now, the Paris climate conference may be seen as the point where ambitious long term global climate policy was finally enshrined in an international agreement, and where the world found a formula that enables consistent action.

However they also acknowledged that there is a "massive" gap between current national pledges and what is needed.

John Quiggin on his blog was also positive, in Turning the Corner:

The agreement just announced from the Climate Conference in Paris isn’t by any means, a solution to the problem of avoiding climate change. But, along with other developments over the past year, it signals the fact that the world community has turned the corner on this issue. 

He saw the biggest political potential danger as a Republican victory in the 2016 US Presidential election, but felt that even that would not be enough to stop the momentum that has now been established world wide.

I think the biggest risk is that the Agreement is seen as an end in itself, and people now think that it's all settled and we don't have to worry about it. Sara Phillips on the ABC noted that Australian concern about climate change seemed to diminish after the carbon price was introduced, possibly because people now felt the problem was solved.

I think there are usually more immediate issues than climate change in most people's lives - cost of living, caring for children, job security, and so on - so the temptation to focus on them and forget about 'distant' problems like climate change is always there, especially if the distant problems appear to be solved. However, as Sara Phillips writes, the advent of the Abbott government in Australia showed that action on climate change can be wound back, even after it has begun - and so there is no room for complacency. One positive thing perhaps is that now there has been such a large scale world wide agreement that action on climate change is important, it will be much more difficult for any politicians in future to wind it back in the way the Abbott government did.