P.S. This Blog first appeared in OUTREACH
Montag, 21. Dezember 2015
We face a paradox post COP21: On the one hand, we now have a global agreement to fight climate change. It is good news that the world has come together to say: climate change must be tackled. Parts of the Paris Agreement are also real progress: a safer target of only 1,5 degrees above pre-industrial levels is now the yardstick by which climate action will be judged. If achieved, such a target would keep many threatened countries safe. We congratulate the most climate vulnerable countries for the leadership they have shown in Paris, starting with an impressive resolution from the Climate Vulnerable Forum calling for 1,5 degrees and 100% renewable energy by 2050 on the very first day of the COP. While governments chose ridiculous convoluted language, they did, in the end, recognize the 1,5 limit and translate it into a “long term goal” that leaves no doubt about the direction we are going in. After Paris, we know that it is only a question of time until the age of fossil fuels is over.
But this question of time is a fundamental question of survival. The Paris agreement does not mandate the world to achieve the very target it proclaims. We knew before COP21 started that the emission targets currently on the table will not keep us below 1.5 - or even 2 - degrees of warming but set us up for a dangerous 3 degree world. Indeed, if government don´t ram up ambition, we will use up the entire carbon we can still use before we exceed 1,5 degrees before 2030 at the latest. Especially the powerful, big emitters must do much more than currently agreed over the next 15 years.
But while the deal fails to force governments to bring their actions in line with their rhetoric before 2020 - it does build momentum for more - and more immediate - action, formally and informally. Formally, there will be a review of targets in 2018 - and a clear expectation that they will be improved. There will also be a review of ambition every 5 years. Informally, President Holland in his closing speech announced that France will increase ambition and finance available for developing countries BEFORE 2020. That´s the dynamic we hope to see following Paris. Other leaders must follow because we really do not have any time to waste.
While it is good that the deal confirms that the shift towards renewable energy we need is indeed inevitable now, it is disturbing to see that under the continuing influence of corporate polluters governments have failed to commit to a “just transition” respecting workers rights and have failed to enshrine Indigenous Peoples as a key principle for climate action. Human rights were mentioned in an environmental treaty of this nature for the first time. But there is a long way to go to governments meeting their human rights obligations, which climate change undermines, as Amnesty and Greenpeace jointly pointed out in Paris.
However, Paris was never going to deliver climate justice. The fundamental economic rules of our planet are still hard-wired against sustainability and drive us to limitless growth without respect for planetary boundaries. Today, the World Trade Organization Ministerial ends in Nairobi. That event will not get the media attention COP21 did, because they will have nothing historic and new to announce. But every day, existing WTO rules work to undermine sustainable development. And every day they are more powerful than the environmental agreements we negotiate at great length and pain. With free trade agreements such as the Trans Atlantic Investment Partnership or the Trans Pacific Parternership, this bad situation risks getting even worse. One of the tasks of the climate movement after Paris is therefore to stop these free trade threats! We must not allow corporate-dominated investment courts in particular to undermine the positive steps forward that Paris did bring.
The key issue, in short, is not what is in this deal but what will happen next. But we can enter that next fight with confidence.
The climate movement has shown it´s strength in the run up to - and in - Paris. It has to keep winning like it has been doing recently. Out there in the real world, coal demand is in terminal decline worldwide and after a dramatic change of energy policy in China we may have recached the global peak of emissions already. People power has also brought real trouble for the oil polluters: Shell and Statoil have had to retreat from the Alaskan Arctic, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. And while fossil fuels are in trouble, renewables are booming. ;ore cities and companies than ever before have signed up for a 100% renewable future in Paris - a true sign of hope, and of change.
We have a long way to go, and many fundamental obstacles, such as free trade agreements, are still in our way. Paris leave us with a paradox, no more.
But following Paris, it is our job as civil society to hold our governments to the rhetoric and commitments they did make in Paris. In 2016, therefore, the entire climate movement will escalate the opposition to fossil fuels all over the world and drive the solutions needed. After Paris, I am confident we will make further progress towards a just transition to a 100% renewables for all in coming months. We are on the right side of history.
P.S. This Blog first appeared in OUTREACH
P.S. This Blog first appeared in OUTREACH
That the Paris climate agreement for the first time sets it´s eyes on limiting global warming to a safer level of 1,5 degrees and sends a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is ending, is the result of real leadership from the most vulnerable countries combined with unprecedented levels of climate mobilization over the last years, months and days. What is good in the Paris agreement is there because of people power. What is bad, and there is plenty, is where people power now, going forward, needs to be directed.
Let´s be honest: After Copenhagen six years ago, the climate movement was depressed. We tried not to let that happen (at Greenpeace, for example, we had a fresh team taking over early in 2010 to keep momentum going). But the mood was too dark, so it took months before we, as a movement, recovered. Looking back now, though, we can say that the strategic roads taken after Copenhagen were vindicated over the past few days. The climate movement´s new focus since 2010 on winning national battles had already resulted in key steps forward: Coal demand is now in terminal decline worldwide, after a dramatic - if not complete - change of course in China. This year alone Shell had to retreat from the Alaskan Arctic, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and Alberta put a cap on tar sands oil. Combine this bad news for fossil fuels with new players - from cities to companies - coming on board with the vision of a 100% renewable future and the ground shifts. It has worked to change - from the grassroots up - the global conversation around climate change.
The climate movement mostly focussed on the global deal negotiations as a hook for the global conversation about the fundamental transformation of our societies we need. We always knew Paris would only be one stop on the long road to climate justice. But we also knew it could send a helpful signal about the end of fossil fuels.
That is done now - and even The Economist concludes that after Paris “the idea of investing in a coal mine will seem more risky.“ But at the global level what has really changed, so far, is only the rhetoric. That the COP21 agreement talks of climate justice and human rights (both for the first time, even if not in operative part of the agreement) shows governments taking on the language of our movements. This is hypocritical, of course. It´s even cynical as the actions they have offered up so far will lead to a disastrous 3 degrees world - and many, too many, are already suffering climate impacts today. But governments adopting our language can be the ground for increasing our pressure and impact. Indeed, it is a classic and important task of global civil society to hold governments to their fine words and turn them into national commitments.
The crass gap between the rhetoric and the reality of climate action is now very much out in the open for everyone see. It´s the task of civil society to force our governments to close that gap. COP 21 means that, as Bill McKibben puts it, “we know where we’re going now; no one can doubt that the fossil fuel age has finally begun to wane .... But the question, the only important question, is: how fast.” There is no time for complacency. But, unlike after Copenhagen, there is also no need to fundamentally change our strategy. We must now return to the national battles and use what progressive language there is from COP21 to increase pressure for real change on the ground. We must mobilize even more millions until we have delivered a just transition to a 100% renewable future for all. And we must also continue to use every tool in our toolbox, including legal ones, to increase pressure.
We met, in Paris, activists from around the world. Many were new to our movement but now willing to take the next steps, including mass civil disobedience. After Paris, the movement is full of energy, the momentum is on the side of the climate justice.
It is the task of global civil society organizations to foster the wider climate movement, to make it louder - and make it heard - going forward. If we work together as one movement, we can speed up the inevitable end of the fossil fuel era to secure our survival. Let´s do it.
P.S. This post was originally published on the Disrupt and Innovate Blog
- a signal that the age of fossil fuels is over
- a commitment to soon - and continuously - improve national climate action and
- global solidarity including a way to make polluters pay for the damage they cause
Today, we can say that we got 1, achieved progress on 2, and that governments mostly failed us on 3. Justice and corporate accountability were the weakest points of the Paris deal.
Let me explain.
- Replacing fossil fuels with 100% Renewable Energy
After Paris, there can be no doubt that the time is up for fossil fuels.
Even The Economist concludes that after Paris “the idea of investing in a coal mine will seem more risky“. Governments chose convoluted language, but the only realistic way to achieve the new “long term goal” they agreed is to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. The deal leaves the door open for some bad things - such as plantations. We will be vigilant and ensure that the real solutions - sustainable renewable energy, forest protection etc. - are the winners as governments implement the deal. Politically speaking, the language is in fact surprisingly strong. The Paris Agreement goes further than the G7 summit commitment to “decarbonize” earlier this year. They did not yet commit to the just transition to a world run on 100% renewable energy for all that we seek. But the Paris deal will drive the energy revolution in the real world - it´s already making shares in renewable companies go up.
2. Commitment to improve national targets
We already know that the pledges governments took to Paris are not good enough and will still lead to a very dangerous and destructive world (between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees warmer than in preindustrial times - the estimates vary). The Paris agreement does not force governments to change them, and change them fast. That is a blatant contradiction to the new 1,5 degree goal, which can only be achieved if we make drastic emission cuts in the next 10 to 15 years already. Indeed, if government don´t ram up ambition, we will use up the entire carbon we can still use before we exceed 1,5 degrees before 2030 at the latest.
The agreement does help a bit by setting a review date of current commitments - 2018. It also makes it clear that there will be regular reviews of ambition every 5 years and that countries will always have to improve what they commit to. President Hollande in his final speech at the conference also promised more emission cuts and more financial support for developing countries before 2020. That´s the dynamic we hope to see following Paris. Other leaders must follow. Because we have no time to waste.
3. Global solidarity
Overall the Paris Agreement fails the justice test. Fine words like “climate justice” and human rights are included only in the non-binding part of the text. Indigenous Peoples rights (while also mentioned in the legal text) are not given the protection they deserve. Just as with emission cuts, we know that the current money available to help the impacted adapt to climate change is not enough. The Paris deal does too little to change that. “Loss and damage” - which refers to negative climate impacts that can’t be adapted to - has however been included in the agreement. That is welcome (it was one of our sub tests). But the Paris Agreement fails to support the idea that major carbon polluters should be made accountable for the damage they have caused. We will have to continue to pursue such justice elsewhere. For us one of the best things of the last two weeks therefore did not happen in Paris but in Manila. The Phillipines Human Rights Commission on December 10th launched a probe into 50 major polluters for potential human rights violations. That´s a major new step - and right on, as inaction on climate change does indeed violate human rights.
All in all, governments took us a step forward in Paris, especially on making it clear that fossil fuels will be history soon. But even if the Paris Agreement had met all our criteria, it would still only have been one stop on the long road to climate justice.
The key issue is not what is in this deal but what will happen next. And that is why I am optimistic. The climate movement has shown it´s strength in Paris. Out there in the real world, coal demand is in terminal decline worldwide and after a dramatic change of energy policy in China we may have reached the global peak of emissions already. People power has also brought real trouble for the oil polluters: Shell had to retreat from the Alaskan Arctic, for example, and President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline.
Montag, 7. Dezember 2015
The last few weeks have seen the best and the worst in terms of climate change.
Victories which pundits told us for years were “impossible” have been coming at a breathtaking pace. Coal demand is in terminal decline worldwide, after a dramatic - if not complete - change of course in China. Oil is also in trouble, with Shell and Statoil retreating from the Alaskan Arctic, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and Alberta putting a cap on tar sands oil. Meanwhile, more and more key players are signing up for a 100% renewable future - from cities to companies. Many communities hit by extreme weather are rebuilding sustainably and hundreds of thousands worldwide are building people power to push forward with climate action now - and in the future.
At the same time the news is getting worse. This year will be the hottest year in recorded history. And Indonesia´s forest fires were a massive blow for climate action, emitting more than the entire United States of America - a powerful reminder of how fast hard-won emission reductions can be jeopardized by greed. Also, despite the climate movement´s recent victories, too often polluters are still dictating policy in North and South. The energy revolution, which is now inevitable, is not going as fast as it needs to, if we’re to keep our climate safe.
The meaning of this year´s climate negotiations has been changed by the recent murderous attacks in Paris, the host city. In response to these terrible crimes, the climate marches around the world this weekend are not just a call to action, but an expression of our shared humanity. Governments must hear this call and make the climate negotiations demonstrate that human cooperation can solve our common problems.
In order to do that, the Paris climate conference must be a starting point for faster and more decisive climate action. As Greenpeace, we have three key criteria that governments must meet:
1. Does the Paris climate agreement send a signal that the age of fossil fuels is over?
The world of energy is changing fast. Governments in Paris must solidify the direction towards renewables that the world is already on, and state clearly that fossil fuels must be completely phased out by 2050. We need a just transition to a world run on 100% renewable energy for all; a world where workers, our health and our children win. This signal must be clear. It must not be stymied by delays. Therefore, we will ask:
2. Does the Paris climate agreement agree to soon - and continuously - improve national climate action?
We already know that the pledges governments are coming to Paris with are not good enough and will still lead to a very dangerous and destructive world (between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees warmer than in preindustrial times - the estimates vary). Governments and companies need to increase their ambition immediately after Paris. We simply cannot afford to be stuck with insufficient targets for the next 10-15 decisive years. The targets must be ramped up before the Paris agreement enters into force in 2020. And governments need to review and enhance their actions every five years after the Paris agreement comes into force in 2020.
3. Does the Paris climate agreement deliver global solidarity and ensure that polluters pay for the damage they cause?
Some impacts of climate change are with us already and we need sufficient and reliable funding and support for those affected. Greenpeace, for example, supports anchoring the “loss and damage mechanism” under the Paris Agreement, to help support the vulnerable. We expect governments to meet the growing adaptation needs. We will also continue to hold polluters accountable, as we are doing with our call on the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR). We need the culpability of big fossil fuel companies for fuelling catastrophic climate change to be addressed.
If the three criteria above are met, we’ll take an important step towards a world in which energy is clean, cheap and accessible to all. A world where air and water will be cleaner and where global warming avoids truly hazardous temperatures.
But even if governments take us this one step forward in Paris, it is still only one step. We are the ones that have to keep marching to get us to where we need to go. We need to keep up the pressure in the months and years after the Paris summit. The race between renewables and climate change will only be won if we keep winning like we have been doing on Keystone, coal and the Arctic. We must continue to build our power as a climate movement worldwide in 2016. This is how we force politicians across the globe to end the fossil fuel era and deliver a decent environment for all.