The Paris agreement comes into force. Good luck Marrakesh…

Over 55% of signatories to the Paris COP21 agreement have now ratified it, so it comes into force.

Happy?

Not yet.

‘Ratification’ means that the individual countries have gone through whatever processes they had to at home to legally bind their country to this international agreement.

The Paris agreement remains a success of good will and good intentions. The COP21 was a hell of an improvement on the Copenhagen talks in 2009 that ended in abject failure. It did more than feebly admitting that climate change was human-made and it would be a good idea to take steps to slow it down. The Paris agreement set goals: an aspirational goal of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees, or 2 degrees maximum. Individual countries offered ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) to those goals.But, but, but… the sum total of those INDCs would add up to 3.5 degrees of global warming – a truly terrifying prospect.

1.5 degrees might save coastal regions and cities such as Banjul in the Gambia or large parts of Bangladesh  It is still dangerous.

Nor is 2 degrees  by any means a safe number. Many authorities think current politics and practices make it inevitable. It would involve more extreme weather, more famine, more floods, wars, migrations and so on. We know, though we so don’t want to know, what’s on offer if we continue to waltz our unseeing dance. One day the fat lady really will sing.

Image result for image fat lady singing

But 3.5 degrees, that might spell the tipping point, after which the effects of climate change cannot be slowed down, let alone reversed, by human action. Our world might become like the Pliocene 3 million years ago, when the northern hemisphere was free of glaciers and ice sheets.  For more terrifying news, follow the tipping point link.

Image result for glaciers melting global warming images

So good luck to COP22 in Marrakesh, which is going to try to close that yawning gap. My organisation, Sustaining All Life, will be there – follow us on Facebook. As always, we’ll be listening to and supporting activists, building bridges and running speak-outs.

Three examples of governments who are sabotaging the Paris agreement. 

1.The UK

As the UK representatives made their way into the COP21 talks, they knew very well that their government, alone among those of the G7, had increased subsidies to fossil fuels and axed those to renewables. As the Ecologist said in November 2015: £10 billion a year, and rising! And now? We’ve agreed fracking in several UK sites and a new runway in Heathrow airport!

Oh Corbynistas (followers of the new socialist UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn), please tell Corbyn that it’s not enough to oppose austerity and slam May’s dictatorial course on Brexit. He also needs to give leadership on the massive crisis threatening all human life.

2. The US

Trump or Clinton? From an environmental point of view, obviously Clinton is the least-bad candidate. But she has refused to come out against the Dakota Access Pipeline or to support the native-led Standing Rock protest. As in the UK, the basic point here is to give up the goal of making the US self-sufficient in energy without changing energy use. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground.

Image result for images police brutality standing rock

 

‘Those are our grandmothers you are digging up.’

As Native women were arrested while they prayed, one said to the construction workers ‘those are our grandmothers you are digging up.’ (The site is just next to a burial ground held sacred by the Sioux tribe who live there). Another says ‘They said “You are under arrest”. What they want to say is “you are under arrest for not being white, for not praying to Jesus”‘. Cultural genocide of Native Americans – the systematic attempt to destroy a culture – has had devastating effects on generation after generation. ‘How can we recover, while it’s still going on?'(From the Guardian website.) The police, as well as the security guards hired by the constructors, have increased their violence against the peaceful protesters, members of the local Sioux tribe whose burial sites are near the construction work, whose water supply is threatened, and thousands of Native American and white supporters. See Standing Rock Facebook site.

 

Image result for images police brutality standing rock

3. Kenya and Somalia

are arguing over their maritime boundaries. These neighbouring countries have their eye on possible oil in the disputed area. Kenya has already sold mining licences to international companies. The case is to be decided in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

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When I visit a Somali friend, the TV is showing the maritime dispute. We discuss it. So many things are at issue here: the status of Somalia’s government, and whether it can really govern given the persistence of the Al Shabaab attacks, Kenya’s ambivalence towards its neighbour, its big Somali minority, the refugees on its borders – current versions of conflicts going on since the colonial period. What my friend, a refugee from a poor and war-torn country, doesn’t want to hear is ‘Leave the oil in the soil’. In this short-sighted view she’s the same as the rest of us.

I have no doubt that at some point in the next ten years, climate events will be so extreme that governments will change course. But they haven’t yet, and unless we make them do it, by the time they move the fat lady may already be singing.

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