Climate change Paris agreement published

Just a quick note to say that the Paris climate change summit has published its agreed text. Here's a copy if you'd like to read it.

I've had a read through it and unfortunately all I've spotted so far is a lot of good sounding sentiments (as in 'we've all got to try hard to keep the temperature down' and 'we'll keep checking how we're getting on every five years' and 'developing countries need help') but precious little in the way of actual numbers. The only hard numbers I saw in the document were an agreement to club together to provide a $100 billion global annual pot to finance environmental improvements. Unfortunately, the U.K.'s own Trident nuclear replacement programme will cost this much and it was also the cost of recently bailing out one small U.K. bank (Northern Rock), so as a global pot to end climate change, it's a ridiculously small figure.

Jim Hansen, the famous American climate change scientist, is highly critical of the Paris agreement. He said in a recent Guardian newspaper interview:

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

It's worth noting that the earlier commitment in the draft agreement to phase out fossil use between 2050 and 2100 was abandoned. In other words, even an agreement to stop burning fossil fuels long after the major negative feedback mechanisms will have kicked in was abandoned. This is in the face of concerted requests by major business figures to phase out fossil fuels by 2050.

In some ways, the naive and wishful reactions to the final agreement by major charities in the last hour is worrying in itself. To quote the live feed from half-an-hour ago:

Avaaz: “a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100% clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs”

WWF UK: “We have a clear vision in the strong long term goal; mechanisms to address the gap between that aspiration and the countries’ current commitments; and the foundations for financing the transition to a low-carbon future.”

Greenpeace: “The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history. There’s much in the text that has been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.”

Fortunately, some of the charities are a little less dewy-eyed and a little more practical:

ActionAid: “what we have been presented with doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world” Co-founder Bill McKibben, said: “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. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”

But again, it's only the words of politicians. As I said in my earlier blog article, we can all make an effort ourselves to work towards a better planet. We can treat climate change as a personal challenge and do what we can to reduce the collective effect. It's not important how significant what we do is globally but how significant our effort is to us, so that we can be proud of ourselves, knowing we all made our own personal effort. The importance of this came home to me again this morning when I watched a short video on the BBC by the British astronaut Tim Peake, talking about the special perspective on Earth that he gained by going into orbit. I found it both emotional and meaningful. Enjoy.

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