In her second article about the UN Climate Summit in Paris, Tomesha Campbell of Our Task* reflects on the key players in Paris, the outpouring of support from the private sector and what the global climate agreement will mean for our global futures
What does the future hold for our next generation and will we make it to 1.5° Celsius before the year 2100? These are the questions that have been running through the heads of climate activists, global leaders, business leaders and engaged youth following the conclusion of the UN Climate Summit in Paris. After two weeks of negotiations that saw an outpouring of support from civil society and the private sector for those most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, we have a global climate agreement. Before we begin congratulating the more than 187 nations, civil society and the private sector for coming together to take large-scale action to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, we must consider that this agreement is only as successful as the actions that occur from now until 2100. Although we have a global climate agreement we must think about what’s next and where do we go from here.
Think tanks shine
More than 187 nations came to the negotiations prepared to take action for climate, but it was the think tanks that really stole the show. Climate Interactive and Climate Action Tracker were the key players in the negotiations who answered the ultimate question of what the world would look like by 2100 if no further action is taken. Climate Interactive, a leading US-based non-profit organisation working to address climate change issues, were influential during the negotiations by illustrating what the pledges that nations have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions really add up to. According to the Climate Interactive Scoreboard, the currently pledged Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCS) would only limit the global temperature to 3.5°C by 2100 or 1°C below what the climate will be if no further action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That puts us at risk for a rise in weather-related natural disasters, an extensive melting of the polar ice caps, and a rise in sea-level that will swallow nations. For these reasons it has become paramount that we understand what the decisions that were made in Paris mean for our global futures.
The unexpected supporters
Global action goes beyond what governments pledge to do, as the actions of the private sector have had their own impact on climate change. Making waves in Paris, the private sector pledged to invest in new green technology to assist the developing nations most vulnerable to climate change. Virgin, Marks & Spencer, L’Oréal and other high-profile companies that refer to themselves as the “B Team” challenged governments to aim for zero net carbon emissions by 2050, which would make decreasing emissions to 1.5°C by 2100 a possibility. However, the agreement that has come out of Paris is lacking elements that would make the zero net carbon emission goal a possibility. Instead, the agreement seems to be focused on the needs of the developed nations. Some fear that the agreement that has come out of Paris has eliminated the requirement of developed nations to vacate the carbon space and doesn’t hold developed nations to any legal targets for emission cuts. As a result, there is no safety net that can prevent the most vulnerable nations from suffering from the harrowing effects of climate change if developed nations continue at their current emissions levels.
The financial costs
The reality is that, without decarbonisation, the world will not achieve the 1.5°C goal and the ones that will pay the most for the lack of action by the developed nations will be the least developed nations. The longer we prolong reducing our carbon emissions, the fewer opportunities the least developed nations will have to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Nations such as Mozambique – which has experienced severe flooding that has resulted in the death of over 1,204 citizens and damage to over 1,176,000 homes – cannot afford the US$334.4 million bill. The world cannot afford to continue ignoring the damage that inaction has caused for the most vulnerable nations.
It’s up to us
Climate justice activists do not intend to allow the voices of the most vulnerable nations to continue to be drowned out by those have been least impacted by climate change. Even though the climate agreement is progress, the climate movement called 350 notes that progress alone is not the goal. The goal is a just and livable planet which, 350 argues, the agreement does not guarantee as it leaves thousands exposed to climate catastrophes and does little to force nations to take any serious action towards reducing their carbon emissions. For these reasons, 350 and other climate activists’ groups have gained momentum and fully intend to hold our world leaders and the private sector to the promise they have made in Paris.
Although it is still too early to know what the coming months post-Paris will lead to, it is clear that the road ahead is taking us towards a place where we will see our world leaders either rise to the occasion or crack under the pressure. Whichever path our leaders choose, it is my sincere hope that it is one that is sustainable for our future generations.
*The mission of Our Task – an “independent network of global citizens” – is to “transform young adults into global thinkers and empower them to lead the next generations in building a sustainable future.”