Last week, on Earth Day, many heads of state gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate. This celebratory photo opportunity is a dangerous distraction from the reality that the voluntary pledges made by 195 countries in the non-binding Paris Agreement do not add up to what we need to prevent major global catastrophe. Despite the rhetoric, these governments and corporations are complicit in the climate crimes that are increasing all over the world.
The Paris Agreement purports to limit the temperature increase to “well below” 2º C, the number which many agree is the very limit the earth can handle before spiraling into major disaster. The reality is that when you add up the voluntary emissions reductions pledged by 195 countries in the Paris Agreement, even if those pledged amounts are achieved, they will lead to a temperature increase of 3º or 4º C. With the current contributions, by 2030 emissions will continue to increase and reach 60 Gt CO2e annually, instead of decreasing to 35 GtCO2e, which is what we are told to aim for to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
This gap is catastrophic for humanity and nature, including the ice culture of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. The Paris Agreement will result in the cooking of the planet.
We cannot cheat Mother Earth. To pretend that you are doing something while you are doing the opposite is a crime that will destroy life as we know it. We have to recognize the rights of Mother Earth and the vital cycles of nature.
The truth is that the Paris Agreement is a big step in the wrong direction. We cannot support the illusion that something positive has been achieved by the signing of an agreement, when in reality it allows for corporations and governments to continue their business as usual. While it may speak of “net” emissions cuts, the Paris Agreement does not limit fossil fuel extraction, halt deforestation, stop big agribusiness, or reduce the consumerism of the wealthiest and most affluent, those responsible for the majority of green house gas emissions.
Two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuels. In order to limit the increase of the global temperature, we need to keep at least 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Yet there is no mention of fossil fuels in the entire Paris Agreement, because the Paris climate talks were infiltrated by the very fossil fuel industries at the root of climate change.
The Paris Agreement paves the way for corporations, the World Bank, and many governments to pursue new ways of turning climate change into a business opportunity, through new carbon markets like REDD, Climate Smart Agriculture, land use change, a reinforced Clean Development Mechanism, carbon pricing and other national and regional market mechanisms. These mechanisms only produce “hot air,” and greater profits to those controlling them.
The real solutions to climate change are those that come from below. Frontline communities are fighting dirty development around the world, and are building alternatives that center community power and decision-making. Peasant ecological agriculture is already feeding most of the world’s population, and at the same time fighting for food sovereignty for the people who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. From community solar energy and wind power, to radical and equitable ways of local organizing, a diversity of community-controlled initiatives are flourishing all around the world.
We must strengthen these initiatives and proliferate them. It’s our only chance, there’s no Planet B.