Let’s face it, getting 196 countries to agree on saving a puppy would be nigh impossible. “Nobody was there to protect the Moscow water dog” declared the Russian negotiator “yet you expect our vote to save a newborn American bulldog?” The Americans pondered the comment overnight, calling Washington to ask if anyone had even heard of a Moscow water dog. “It’s extinct” explained an NSA canine agent “but maybe we could trade a cloned spaniel, they probably won’t even notice.”
Paris climate agreement - a turning point © Dave Currey
National interests, corporate bullying, trade-offs are part of every international negotiation and in this geopolitical reality I see Paris as a success. It has re-ignited a process that had lost its political momentum. Bill McKibbon, co-founder of 350.org put it well: “This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”
As far as I can see it has side-lined the climate sceptics to insignificance and provided every climate activist with a focused campaign direction based on the strengths and weaknesses of the agreement.
I am enormously thankful to these activists for their devotion and knowledge in this vital battle. It is heart-warming (and heart-breaking) to hear the stories of indigenous people in Paris to explain the destruction of their forests (carbon sinks in Paris lingo) and to see the determination of small island states successfully pushing a 1.5 degree goal to protect their countries and their people.
Less exciting has been the lack of in-depth media coverage in the English language press over the year and it was even quite difficult to find detailed information during the two weeks of the Paris climate negotiations. The media seemed to prefer to build up a fear of “terrorism” following the tragic Paris attacks and more recently the San Bernardino mass shooting. In the UK the news focused on a parliamentary vote to bomb Syria. We can't expect the 24 hour mogul dominated news cycle to perform any better in the years to come.
Indigenous forest communities must be part of the solution © Dave Currey / EIA
It should be no surprise in light of the complexities of the Paris agreement and considerable media disinterest in the issues, the public in many developed countries are not engaged. The percentage of the public in some of the richest countries who consider climate change as a very serious issue has declined considerably since 2009. In the most aware countries around half of us are very concerned. In light of this I am relieved to see our politicians stepping up to recognise this extraordinary threat to our planet.
I know many friends of mine who have been fighting for specific elements of an agreement will be disappointed by the political compromise. For me it’s a turning point which allows for tightening the actions over the years. We must awaken the public to what is going to happen if stronger action is not taken. Somewhat frighteningly it might take further tragic events caused by climate change to fuel this awakening.
For now at least my frustration is relieved and I’m wearing a renewable sunny smile.