The recently concluded UN climate change talks in Paris (COP21), which have been surrounded by much hype, have provoked widely diverging opinions. Transition Monaghan member, Mícheál Callaghan, was one of thousands of activists who travelled to Paris for the final days of the COP. He gives his views on the deal as well as well as possible next steps.
I was part of a delegation of Irish activists who travelled to Paris for the final days of the Conference of the Parties (COP). We felt it was important to travel and take part in actions and demonstrations to highlight the importance of a climate deal.
Thousands of people from all walks of life made the journey, and in their coming together there was a sense of a unified and powerful climate justice movement. What was striking was that people of all ages were in attendance, reflecting the fact that climate change is an inter–generational issue.
Despite the ‘State of Emergency’, a number of demonstrations were facilitated by the French police. It was a privilege to have been involved in the ‘Red Lines’ action on Saturday morning. Over 15,000 people took to the streets to demand climate justice. With chants of ‘We are unstoppable, another world is possible’, it felt more like a celebration of a strengthening movement, rather than a traditional ‘protest’. Chants, banners and samba drums, created a euphoric atmosphere. The positivity of the throngs highlighted that even faced with huge global threats such as climate change and terrorism, people can unite for the common good.
“By comparison to what it could have been it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been it’s a disaster.” British journalist George Monbiot aptly captures the spectrum of opinion on COP21.
The deal, aims to keep temperature rises well below 2 degrees, and as close to possible to 1.5 degrees. While this is a huge step in the right direction, the commitments made by individual countries as part of the agreement, would lead to temperature increases closer to 3 degrees. There is still huge work to be done to ensure that countries increase their pledges to meet the target of the Paris Agreement.
Some of the strongest criticism for the deal comes from its failure to adequately protect those most affected by climate change, in the developing world. As with many international agreements there is no mechanism to impose liability or sanctions on countries who do not meet their targets, meaning good – will, co – operation and civil society pressure will play an important role.
WHERE TO NEXT?
First, the agreement to keep temperature changes as close to 1.5 degrees as possible will require a concerted effort by leaders from politics, business and civil society. It will need a shift in direction in all policy areas. Ireland will be bound by the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030. In doing so we have the opportunity to re-invent our economy and society, by providing sustainable jobs in agriculture (in particular organic and crop based farming), forestry, retro-fitting all buildings to make them more liveable and protecting our natural habitats, especially peatlands.
Secondly, the mass mobilisation of activists in Paris is only the beginning of a strengthening and determined movement for a better future. If world leaders do not step up to the mark, they can expect to be held to account by civil society. The Paris agreement has provided the opportunity for us to win the most important struggle of our time.
For further information on how you can become involved in playing your part in building a fossil fuel free Co. Monaghan, keep an eye on http://www.transitionmonaghan.org