Where just last week what has been hailed as one of the most monumental global agreements in history was made… but we maybe can’t relax just yet.
COP 21 is now concluded &, it would seem, the fate of our planet decided. By and large, people seem happy that we have achieved what was set out to do: To agree to a less than 2ºC temperature rise (above pre-industrial levels), by reducing our emissions, phasing out fossil fuels, wealthy, developed nations giving $100Billion to developing nations by 2020 to help them do that, and the nice establishment of a 5-year-review where everyone can get together to see how we’re doing. Hurrah!
Main-stream media seems very happy with it all. Politicians seem very happy with it all. Even 50% of the organisers of the Global Climate March – Avaaz.org – seem happy, saying in a recent email to members that “We did it!… World leaders at the UN climate talks have just set a landmark goal that can save everything we love!”
The other 50% of the GCM organisers, 350.org, seem somewhat less thrilled by the result of these talks:
And I think quite rightly so because, as much as it may be great to make this deal and have the world on board… it is still a slightly inadequate deal – mostly in the gross lack of actual targets, and that none of it is legally binding – and there’s still a huge amount of work to be done. The simple fact that the UN have agreed and produced a very vague document about it doesn’t mean that the rest of us can turn to each other and say “Wehey, that’s that then!” dust off our hands and clock-off.
For the last year, momentum has been building up for this to be huge. We knew it was going to be tough, but there was the hope that, with sufficient preparation, the world would be able to pull something together that was appreciably ambitious. Though even Barack Obama is noted as having optimistically called the very notion of agreement ‘ambitious‘. Throughout all that there was hope, and with this hope I (and countless others) watched COP21 unfold, as they steadily drafted out reems of proposals, identified disagreements and sought remedies. But, thanks to The Guardian’s live feed of the events, I was able to pinpoint the moment when the wind was taken from my sails, and the vectors of my face & palm converged…
It was the moment the actual targets were removed from the draft. The moment apathy set in, and the points of contention – like how much reductions we were going to commit to, or by when – were, instead of decided upon, simply removed and left as fluff. I know scientists who say this is a good thing, that if we had a target of, say, 50% reduction it’d be interpreted as an excuse to still emit a full 50%… but I honestly disagree. Do we really think such lenience won’t be taken advantage of? It’s like choosing not to say to your child “You can have only have half of this chocolate bar” because you think they’ll only have 2 squares if you keep schtup.
And to make it worse, this is all voluntary anyway. No countries are under any obligation to actually do anything! At least they all agree now that something has to be done.
Of course, such dissatisfaction can be taken too far, and this is where my sympathy for activists breaks down. While it’s important that The People exercise their power, certain types of activism do ring with a bit of small-man syndrome, disguised as disestablishmentarianism. For example, I don’t agree with the message in this video by New Internationalist that the only way forward is to take the power from the hands of the corporations.
Like it or not, corporations pretty much are the developed world. They are huge, almightily powerful and influential – even to our governments. It’s something I’ve been discussing with students over my One Man Climate March – we need the phasing-out of fossil fuels but by investment in something else. Do you think we could continue to function if we just cut out all fossil fuels right now? No, absolutely not as our way of life – that we all fight for and, to certain extents, deserve – depend on that too much. Similarly, our society is made and managed by corporations; we can’t get rid of them. What we DO need to do is to help/incense corporations to change the ways they do what they do, to make the world a better place. As we know, they have huge amounts of power and money; they are better equipped than any of us impoverished eco-warriors to change the world right now.
In light of COP21, the head of Europe’s coal lobby spat his dummy out and declared that the coal industry is going to be ‘hated and vilified like slave-traders‘ now.
(“Well, Duh?” was my first thought on that)
But I seriously do wonder why these companies – who currently supply our power through one means or another – don’t just commit to continuing to do so in a cleaner way! We, the customers, don’t necessarily love them because they give us coal, it’s because ultimately they power our homes. And if they complain about loss-of-jobs – what, you think wind-turbines just grow on trees? Or couldn’t stand any improvements?? It’s a lucrative sector, get in there!
I was happy that, smack in the middle of COP21, a huge forum was also held – 2 whole days devoted to presenting sustainable solutions – the 6th Sustainable Innovation Forum. Check out their YouTube channel for what they talked about. Unfortunately this year this became a target of anti-corporate activism, and now there’s great contention around how much elements of this forum can be classified as ‘greenwashing’ for big corporations. So that bit was kind of a mess.
But, ambitious as myself and my eco-peers may be, it’s still apparently very difficult to change the world. I mean, yes, it very much is, but that’s no reason not to try. There’s huge things to consider, almost infinite ramifications of our actions, and always more people & livelihoods to consider, but the answers are out there. But still, here’s a clip of David Cameron practising telling his grand-children that it was just too difficult:
“…No-one is being asked to pre-ordain what that [5-yearly] review would say…
No-one is being asked to sign-up for automatic decreases in their carbon emissions…” Mr Cameron says in this pre-COP speech.
Umm, YES, Mr Cameron, that’s almost exactly – word-for-word – what we were asking you to do.
But apparently it is difficult. Apparently it is going to be a hard-slog to kick this habit – but no-one (apart from Mr Cameron there) ever said it was going to be easy. The closest thing any expert has ever got to saying it’ll be easy, is saying it’s going to be easier now than it will in the future. And we’re all going to have to pitch-in.
So that’s what I implore of you all. This is a very big issue, and we have some very big opinions on it. We have some very big hinderances to our efforts, but biggest of all is just our griping about it. Please, can we just get over ourselves and get on with the task in hand. Focus on how to make the world better, and DO SOMETHING about it, rather than distracting yourself on how it’ll be hard, or miserable, because if you do, you’ll be right.
A year ago Prince Ea released this beautiful video that, I think (hope), had the same intended message behind it as Mr Cameron’s before the UN. But from Prince Ea it was much better delivered, and is still resoundingly true today.
And if you don’t think enough has been done… if you want something to do… Then follow Prince Ea’s advice, offset your carbon with Stand For Trees, or with Saving Species. Take pride in the world that you are a part of, and consume less, eat less meat – particularly beef. Help prevent fracking. Share happiness and unity and pride and hope and empowerment. Let this impact your life now so that it will impact others less – and less badly – in the future. Act in such ways that you can take pride in the impact that your life has on this world. And if you ever think that not enough is being done, that is your opportunity to do something more.