What was unthinkable is now unstoppable – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
His quote resonated among the many speeches that followed French President Francois Hollande’s announcement that we now have a new global understanding on climate – the legally binding Paris Agreement.
Following Copenhagen 2006, it was unthinkable 196 nations would voluntarily sign up to the world’s first global agreement to work together on climate change in good faith, with 189 lodging Intended Nationally Determined Contributions INDCs before Paris.
Yet it’s important to state plainly that the net contribution of all INDCs now in hand still commit the world to 2.7-3 of warming, so we are not out of the woods yet, but at least we are starting to take it all seriously…
Ten years ago it was unthinkable that many nations would be seriously considering transition plans to 100% Renewable, from tiny island states to larger industrial nations, even Germany seriously planning to wean itself off the nuclear industry
Now renewables are spear-heading an unstoppable revolution towards low carbon energy, across a spectrum ranging from large-scale investment by states like California to community-owned renewable energy co-ops with a sizeable slice of the energy pie. Local innovations such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Water Wheel will gather pace too.
India’s launch of the new global Solar Alliance involved 120 countries is one good example of the broader revolution sweeping the world.
Business leaders have grasped the inevitable and begun planning for a new carbon-constrained world. They are looking for clear market signals, still weak within the current Paris Agreement, but with enough of a landing zone to enable fledgling markets like Italy’s new FairCarbon initiative to gain enough oxygen to develop robust trials.
Higher levels of ambition are encouraging, consistent with the urgency of the science, with a new long term goal for “well under 2°C”, but includes reference to ‘pursuing efforts” to limit warming to 1.5°C.
While the Paris agreement is not perfect in a perfect world, its existence is testimony to French diplomacy and the growing recognition the world faces a serious threat. A new globally binding agreement is an excellent bedrock for the next phase of coordinated climate action.
This agreement … sends a powerful signal: a low carbon future, in clean energy at a scale we have never seen before.
“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama said, calling the agreement “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”
The key to success will not just be saying the right thing, but doing the right thing – at the global scale. And that will take ongoing huge efforts to ensure the linkages and implementation required to bring the requisite finance, technology transfer and coordination along with the political will to deploy the growing wealth of science and art of mitigation and adaption, while maintaining and improving ecosystem health and vital carbon sinks across the world’s urban, rural and natural habitats…
Leading the speed and direction of change will remain a key role for civil society, for I remain committed to my view that it is communities that will help us find a way out of this mess, and when enough communities lead, the governments will follow.
#COP22 in Marrakech in Nov 2016 may be the chance to confirm and clarify vital arrangements around finance, loss and damage, human rights, load-sharing and collaboration opportunities across political, cultural, geographic and religious divides. No doubt there is a mountain of work to be done beforehand.
For now, it is enough to pause for breath and rest, knowing the world is safer hands than it was a month, a fortnight, a day ago… the final outcome is up to us all.