COP21: Ambitious Goals and the Implications of 1.5

The Paris Agreement is a landmark step to prevent global catastrophe, and moves us closer to a world free of fossil fuel burning. It is also admirable that finances are to be allocated through the Green Climate Fund to not only fight climate change, but to agree to distribute those funds on a needs basis.

However, as many other environmental advocates have noted, this agreement fails on a number of key points. Notably:

1)    This agreement claims to support a soft target of 1.5C, but the plans countries have submitted will cause more than 3c of global warming. It only takes effect in 2020, with concrete enforcement recommended only after 2023. Especially given the extreme urgency with which action is needed, allowing governments to spend years developing plans while consuming oil and gas at the same rate may very well mean that the 1.5c soft target will be missed before delegate states have a chance to implement their plans.

2)     Human Rights, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples only occur in the preamble, not the operative text. Acknowledgement of indigenous resistance to false solutions like REDD+, carbon trading, and support for keeping fossil fuels in the ground does not occur in the operative text. This is a huge miss on part of our world leaders, who claim to wish to save the planet while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the rights of the people they serve to that planet’s stability.

3)    The refusal of wealthy nations primarily responsible for the emissions of the past century to take the lead on emissions reductions. While they are taking on a bigger share of the financial burden, they are absolutely not contributing enough to undo the damage they did. We believe this is counter to the ambitious goals set out in this agreement.

What we at have found most encouraging has been the international response to the agreement. Already, we have witnessed stock prices of companies in oil and gas plummet, the first Canadian University recommend divestment from the fossil fuels industry, and local communities worldwide wanting to do more, to aim higher, to do better than even the ambitious 1.5c soft goal set in Paris.

A new wave of enthusiasm is in the air, in part due to the successes of the Paris agreement. Governments made promises that exceeded their ambition. Global civil society will now make them keep their word. It is up to us now, the people of the world, to catch that wave.