How the Paris Agreement Falls Short – from Our Children’s Trust

Our Children's TrustEmail from The Children’s Trust:

Why the Paris Agreement Falls Short

GR:  The Paris Agreement does not call for action soon enough to avoid catastrophic change.  Please sign the petition.
“Dear Friends,
Recent reports are touting the Paris Agreement as “an historic international climate accord,” and a “big step forward.” President Obama says the Agreement could be “a turning point for the world,” and that we can now be “more confident that this planet will be in better shape for the next generation.” Sadly, it’s true that the Paris Agreement––which obliges 196 countries to work collaboratively in an effort to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels––is technically “progress” compared to the status quo. But the simple fact is: the Agreement does not come close to what is needed to stop the destruction of our climate system and protect our children and future generations.

“The Agreement is woefully lacking—both in terms of substance and enforceability. Even if the signatories actually followed through with all of their respective carbon-cutting commitments, the planet would be on pace for a temperature increase well in excess of the stated goals of 2 and 1.5 degrees. But there’s no reason to believe countries will actually keep their commitments, given that the Agreement prescribes no enforcement mechanism. In our President’s own words: “the problem’s not solved by this accord.”

“At Our Children’s Trust, we would like nothing more than a chance to revere an enforceable, substantive, and science-based pact signed and enacted by our world leaders; but if what we want is a stable climate and the seas to stop rising, we have to be brutally honest about what the Agreement actually achieves and where we are at because of it.

“Here are the top three reasons why we think the
Paris Agreement falls short:
  1. The Agreement does not commit any nation to any specific level of emissions reduction. The Agreement merely “invites” and “requests” that nations set nationally determined contributions toward emissions reduction. Analysis by a German team and an MIT team say the plans of 187 countries submitted prior to the Paris Conference (90% of all CO2 emissions), if followed, would lead to between 2.7 degrees or 3.5 degrees C of warming. The world’s existing plans under this Agreement, therefore, come nowhere close to reaching the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C, or 1.5 degrees C – let alone a safe level of warming, which should be no more than 1 degree C long-term.
  2. And the kicker: the Agreement imposes no firm date when nations must start reducing emissions nor does it prescribe any timeline or trajectory on which those reductions should take place. The Agreement does not demand that nations reduce emissions NOW; it encourages them to resubmit their voluntary reductions in three years and start reducing by 2020. We don’t have this kind of time!
  3. The Agreement does not create legally binding or enforceable emission reductions. John Kerry stated that the Agreement has no “mandatory scheme and doesn’t have a compliance enforcement mechanism.”
What others are saying about the Agreement:

“Federal Plaintiff, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians: “The documents are signed and COP 21 has come to an end. Another year of gathering for the Conference of Parties come and gone. And still, after 21 years of meetings. After 21 years of destruction. After 21 years of exponential increases in climate destruction across the globe. After 21 years of the increased suffering of front-line and indigenous communities, people of color, women and children, these agreements are still not enough. . . .The evidence is clear. The science is present. The stories are being told. Lives are being lost. Communities being destroyed. People being displaced. Forests burning. Seas rising. Glaciers melting. Islands sinking into the ocean. Unprecedented floods and droughts devastating communities. This is not a game. This is not about politics. This is not about leadership. This is not about money. It’s not even about the environment anymore. This is about every living person and creature on the planet, our lives and our safety being threatened by the greatest issue of our time, climate change. All this and it still isn’t enough. Not enough has already been lost to show our world leaders that they need to make significant change to reverse the affects of climate change and prevent further destruction. But for the first time in history, we have a global agreement on climate change. And it is a start, but isn’t enough. It is a step in the right direction.”

Federal Plaintiff and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen: “There is no action, just promises.”

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The conference “delivered more of the same—lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved. . . . None of the commitments made…are binding, and many aren’t even complete. Moreover, Congress must appropriate any funds that the Obama administration has pledged.”

“The American Petroleum Institute, which is fighting our Youth Plaintiffs in court: “The U.S. shale boom — with its massive quantities of natural gas, . . . as deserving of at least some credit behind the drop in domestic carbon output in recent years.” And “We will closely scrutinize the COP 21 agreement to see how it references the U.S. model of reducing emissions through technological innovation and increased use of natural gas.” Wow, no complaints about the Paris Agreement from the fossil fuel industry?

The Guardian’s George Monbiot: “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

“Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org: “Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done.”

“Presidential Candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders: “[The Paris Agreement] goes nowhere near far enough.”

***
“So many from civil society, including our youth, alongside bold leaders from some nations and many indigenous communities, gave a valiant effort to push for a transformative Agreement, and we are grateful for their leadership and for being there on behalf of us all. The public awareness and movement that continue to grow as a result of so much work is critical. But let’s all be crystal clear so that we never get complacent: the Paris Agreement is not a solution to our climate crisis. Instead, we must have binding and enforceable domestic and international commitments that limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, with a long-term maximum of 1 degree C over the pre-industrial era.

“That is why Our Children’s Trust supports youth seeking legally-binding and enforceable, science-based climate recovery action in the courts. No more waiting. No more negotiating away our children’s future. The judiciary must act now to avert the largest intergenerational injustice the world has ever known.“Please sign this petition in support of youth’s efforts to secure legally binding science-based climate action, as we all continue our quests toward a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf all present and future generations.

“Thank you for all you do to help us elevate the voice of youth and to secure their inalienable rights, and those of future generations.”

Your OCT team,

Julia, Meg, Elizabeth, Nate, Lou and Coreal

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