Today, representatives of over 130 nations are expected to attend the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This brings parties one step closer towards ratifying the Agreement through national Parliaments in most cases - with nations turning their intended pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (known as INDCs) into their agreed actual contribution to the climate effort.
The global elite are celebrating this event, and patting themselves on the back. But what does it really mean?
When the Paris Agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015, our organisation Friends of the Earth Malta along with Friends of the Earth International strongly denounced the deal as a weak agreement which failed to deliver the scale of action needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
“Scientists are now telling us that we have entered ‘decade zero’. Decisions taken in the next 10 years – investments in dirty mega infrastructure, exploitation of new fossil fuel sources, mobilisation and distribution of public finance, the scale of emissions reductions that are undertaken – will determine if we breach the 1.5°C guardrail or not,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International.
“This in turn will determine the scale of impacts on our planet and its people,” she added
We demand our government provide much-needed climate finance so that developing countries can transform their societies and provide a dignified life for their citizens. Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are only obliged to ‘report on’ any finance they provide - but exactly how much, or what kind of finance that might be, is conveniently ambiguous, opening the door for dangerous private finance, and potentially broadening the pool of donors to include developing countries, ” said Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of FoE Malta.
Neither the Paris Agreement nor its formal signing this week will safeguard our planet from the ravages of the climate catastrophe.
In December, we had noted that even though the Agreement mentions the pursuit of ‘efforts to limit increase to 1.5 degrees,’ whilst acknowledging the risks of a 2°C goal, it totally lacks the conviction that is urgently needed to meet the 2°C goal, let alone 1.5°C goal. In fact, current pledges put forward by countries add up to warming of around 3 degrees, and possibly higher - clearly incompatible with a habitable planet.
Yet the climate science is clear that breaching the 1.5°C guardrail poses an unacceptable risk of crossing irreversible tipping points, impacting billions of people. So without a meaningful increase of action now, the current pledges lead us to climate disaster.
Meanwhile, we are concerned that the Paris Agreement’s mention of ‘climate neutrality’ will encourage the deployment of untested, dangerous geoengineering, and roll-out of false solutions such as more carbon markets, dangerous nuclear energy and a global land grab for agrofuels. This agreement must not be used to continue pumping of carbon into the atmosphere, by pretending that’s it's possible to use technology to suck the carbon out.
What is needed to stop the climate crisis is system change, an energy revolution and transformational action. Specifically, if we are to prevent dangerous climate change:
• We need a just, global energy transformation, including stopping of dirty energy projects, improving energy efficiency, tackling energy access issues and moving to community-owned renewable energy. It is inconceivable that we can hope to stay within our carbon budget without such an energy transformation.
• We need the age of fossil fuels to come to an end, within the next short decades.
• We need finance from developed to developing countries to help them move away from dirty energy.
• We need countries to cut emissions at source, and not hide behind carbon markets, REDD and other false solutions.
“Today, we emphasize that we will build peoples’ power at the local, national and international levels, to stop dirty energy on the ground, to focus on good energy solutions, to dismantle the power of polluting corporations and to hold our governments responsible to our citizens instead,” said Sara Shaw, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.
In the next 10 years, as the window closes on our chance to remain below that 1.5°C guardrail, we will help build a peoples’ movement to push for this transformation.
Simply singing the Paris Agreement without any substance on implementation and ambition is irresponsibly insufficient. We cannot count on such an Agreement alone to achieve climate justice.