The COP 21 climate conference has wrapped up in Paris, and will likely go down in history as a historic moment for the international community and climate change; the question is what kind of turning point COP 21 will be. Barack Obama has said as much about the agreement, calling it a turning point for the world. China and India praised the deal, which is a major milestone in and of itself as they are set to become the world’s biggest polluters if trends continue in their economies. CNN even attempted to praise the agreement calling it “hailed as a milestone in the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life.”
But there is plenty of skepticism over whether the agreement reached in Paris is going to truly be a step forward in “the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life,” a battle too many are still mind-bogglingly against fighting. The big sticking point for most is that the agreement, while mandating bottom-up a system cutting of greenhouse gas emissions across the world over time, doesn’t contain any strong provisions for punishing member states who fail to abide by those emissions cuts. That may or may not be a fair criticism; there is no supranational legal body responsible for forcing sovereign nations to agree to the terms of treaties and if there was it would be less progressive and more Orwellian.
The rest of the media’s and various politicians’ opining on the agreement boils down to differing degrees of optimism on a single number. The Paris agreement is designed to curb global warming and keep it under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In short some think that is possible and some think it is not. Combined with the constantly evolving politics over climate aid to developing nations it’s a recipe for the kind of relatively information-free disagreement that the internet and mass-media were made for. For example Nick Dearden, director of what could be called for better or worse an international eco-socialist activist group called Global Justice Now, has said of the agreement, “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations,” arguing that the agreement is simply not going to be held up by developed nations.
But even business groups in those developed nations are treating this agreement as something different. WBCSD, a sustainable business advocacy group, tweeted that “the transition to a low carbon economy is unstoppable.” If global warming to some degree is unstoppable, one can only hope so are its proposed solutions.
DSW staff are analyzing the details of the agreement reached and will continue to comment on this, the most significant development to date in our lifetimes in the battle to keep earth habitable.