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What I've been reading about the Paris Agreement

Posted by Oisín Coghlan on December 14, 2015 at 11:00 PM

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I've been reading various assessments of Paris over the last 48 and I thought I'd share my round-up of the most pithy and insightful.

  • Bill McKibben came over all Michael Collins in the official 350.org response: "This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet".

  • I like George Monbiot's line: "By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster".
  • Writing on grist.org Bill McKibben put it this way: "So if you want to be cynical about the Paris agreement, there’s plenty of reason. But if you want to be hopeful, here’s the thing: The world’s governments have now announced their intentions. And so the rest of us can hold them to those promises, or at least try. What, you want to build a pipeline? I thought you were going to go for 1.5 degrees. You want to frack? Are you fracking kidding me? You said you were going for 2 degrees at the absolute worst."
  • And I very much agree with Craig Bennett in today's Guardian: "If you judge Paris by what’s required by science, or justice, it’s hard not to find it wanting...If you judge Paris by politics, it looks a lot better because in Paris the politics changed."
  • Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said "The deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history. But emission targets are not big enough.

  • Lorna Gold of Trócaire put it like this:  "this agreement is the result of people power from around the world as people have demanded political action on the issue…[But] No stroke of a pen can solve this urgent and growing crisis …  Public pressure must continue from all sides and everyone…It’s important to have ambitious targets but even more important is the policy ambition to actually achieve them."

Journalistic overviews of the deal and what it means from my go-to sources (and one academic):

  • Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker: Good Reasons to Cheer the Paris Climate Deal
  • Ben Adler of Grist.org: Here’s what you need to know about the new Paris climate agreement
  • Vox's Brad Plumer: The world just agreed to a major climate deal in Paris. Now comes the hard part (with lots of even nerdier links)
  • Peadar Kirby: The Paris Agreement: a major step forward or ‘worthless words’? (spolier: ultimately he's hopeful) 
  • David Roberts of Vox: The conceptual breakthrough behind the Paris climate treaty (spolier: bottom-up voluntarism)

Friends of the Earth International's policy analysis of actual agreement is unforgiving - benchmarked as it is against The People's Test. This meant FoE's public reaction to the the deal was more negative than some NGOs, FoE Europe went with "Paris climate deal not fit for people and planet". Our analysis is closely mirrored in this New Internationalist assessment: Epic Fail or a Planetary Scale.

But as the climate movement came of age in Paris our public messaging was more about contrasting weak political commitment with amazing activist achievement in Paris:

There's another round-up still to do of the analysis there is on what it means for Ireland (listen back to Joe Curtin on Morning Ireland on Monday for example) ...

But, for now, the last words should go to the activists on the streets of Paris:

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