Quantcast
Climate

Carl Pope: Paris Agreement 'Greatest Single Victory Since Emergence of Modern Environmental Movement'

Dear friends,

The world acted. Not perfectly, not timely, but with seriousness and gravity. The metaphor of the day was some variant on turning point/pivot/fork in the road/hinge of history. No one proclaimed "mission accomplished."

Beyond ratifying the substantial but inadequate voluntary national commitments to lower climate emissions which had already emerged as the first major Paris contribution to climate progress, the final Paris agreement opened three major avenues for climate advocates and solutions.

First, perhaps most important, the entire world, including Iran and Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, agreed that the fossil fuel era will end this century. It will thus end while most of the world's already identified fossil fuel reserves are still in the ground. The end of the carbon era in human economics may or may not come in time to avoid the worst climate chaos, but come it will and the pace of market adjustment to this shocking new reality will now accelerate. The collapse in the market value of coal companies was just the early warning signal of a sudden shift in economic power and importance. It may be too late for most institutional investors to avoid taking a bath on their fossil fuel portfolios.

Second, this reality will unlock a freshet of new investment in a huge variety of low carbon solutions. Some—like rail—mature but newly valued; some—like the emerging technologies to be incubated by Bill Gates' new Clean Tech Initiative—still unproven and others—like the solar panels which Narendra Modi's Solar Alliance will perfect and deploy—on the verge of sweeping away their fossil fuel competitors. As this new wave of investment drives the price of low carbon infrastructure down even lower, the requirement that national goals be regularly and transparently updated every five years guarantees that, nations will further cut emissions to capture the new economic opportunities. We are only half way to closing the 2 degree emissions gap, still further from the needed (and now formally aspired) to 1.5 degrees goal. But the new economics of clean energy in 2020 should take us where we need to go.

Third, the Paris Accord plucked most of the low-hanging fruit for climate diplomacy. The remaining issues—how to create a reliable environment for massive, private north to south low-carbon investment; who pays for damages and losses which result from climate change not avoided; how cities, particularly in the global south, access capital to build resilient infrastructure to withstand a less friendly climate are much harder. But they also now stand out starkly as the focus for dialogue and the benchmarks for further progress. The unwillingness of global elites to revisit outmoded institutional assumptions—for example that nation states don't need to make a seat at the climate table for their cities, that the U.S. and Europe can ration the flow of development finance to the Global South or that ad hoc, after the fact disaster relief is a reasonable global mechanisms to deal with massive and growing natural disasters—is now clear as the focus for urgent attention.

Thus far we have stumbled in the diplomatic arena towards modest indeed levels of agreement, amidst massive mistrust in an atmosphere polluted by climate denialist's (until today successful) effort to delay collective recognition. The aha moment has come. Now we are free—if we choose—to race towards first climate stability and then, once we reach that plateau and stand poised to actually lower concentrations of greenhouse gasses, climate recovery.

My own deep engagement with this effort begin in 2005, when the Sierra Club's grassroots leadership decided to pour everything we had into confronting climate. We took on preventing America from doubling down on its reliance on coal as our first challenge—a campaign whose success made a substantial contribution to the ability of the U.S. to follow the road to Paris. It has been ten years—but this weekend's announcement is, I think without doubt, the greatest single victory since the emergence of the modern environmental movement.

Thank you everyone.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

President Obama: Paris Climate Agreement a ‘Turning Point for the World’

12 Key Takeaways From the Paris Climate Talks

World Leaders Agree to Historic Global Climate Agreement

10,000+ Took to the Streets in Paris Pledging Escalated Actions in the Fight for Climate Justice

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Animation showing percent of acres burning worldwide. NASA / GSFC / SVS

New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas

By Sharon Kelly

Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America's electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Forest Gardening With Space for Wild Elephants

By Michael B. Commons

In my collaboration with Terra Genesis International, I have been given space and support to investigate what we may call "Regenerative Pathways," looking at real life examples of functional farming systems that we can identify as being on the "Regenerative Agriculture Pathway."

While these farms/farming systems might be called "Regenerative Farms," we see regeneration more as a long term process and continuum that we can evaluate through indicators such as soil health, water retention, biodiversity, community health and more.

Keep reading... Show less
Slava Bowman / Unsplash

How Can We Help Put a Human Face on Climate Change?

By John R. Platt

Communicating the truths about climate change isn't always easy. Sometimes the effects of climate change seem to hover in the future, or are occurring most visibly in other parts of the world. Other times they're subtle—at least for now. And of course, there are some people who just don't want to hear anything about it.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Aerial view of Yaguas River and the Cachimbo tributary. Alvaro del Campo, Field Museum

Peru's Newest National Park Safeguards 2 Million Acres of Amazon Rainforest

The Peruvian government announced it will establish a new and enormous national park in the Amazon.

Yaguas National Park, located in the northern region of Loreto, consists of 2,147,166 acres of rainforest, a vast river system and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals, including giant otters, woolly monkeys, Amazonian river dolphins and manatees. The park also features 550 fish species—one of the richest fish faunas in the world.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Molteno Dam Reservoir in Cape Town. Wikimedia Commons

Will Cape Town Become the First Major City to Run Out of Water?

Cape Town is on track to become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

The world-renowned tourist destination—and the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg—could approach "Day Zero," when most taps run dry, by April 21, Mayor Patricia de Lille said Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
The mountains of Haiti. PO2 Daniel Barker / DVIDS

Haiti’s Most Popular Ecotourism Destinations

The tropical Caribbean island of Haiti is a paradise with a rich, fascinating history, natural wonders and diverse cultural offerings. It has also been named by some as the next big thing in regional tourism.

But ecotourism in particular could become important for Haiti, with its rich land and sea biodiversity. Globally, the business of ecotourism generates more than $600 billion a year and is connected to hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
iStock

Nearly All Coastal Governors Denounce Plan to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

Politicians from coastal states around the country continue to call for their states to be exempt from the Trump administration's proposed expansion of offshore drilling following its politically-tinged decision last week to remove Florida from the plan.

The Interior Department said last week that Secretary Ryan Zinke had spoken with seven coastal governors opposed to drilling, including the governors of North and South Carolina, Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office told press Zinke would consider removing the state from the plan following their call, while California Gov. Jerry Brown's office reports that Zinke promised to travel to the state to further discuss the offshore leases.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Rob Hainer / IStock

In Alabama, a Cleanup Unearths Toxins—and Scandal

By Matt Smith

Lot by lot, backhoes and dump trucks are scraping and hauling away yards on the north side of Birmingham to remove soil laced with heavy metals and other industrial wastes—the legacy of this city's years as a steelmaking power.

Federal prosecutors say that effort also uncovered something else: a scheme to save polluters millions by putting the neighborhood's representative in Montgomery on their payroll.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!