“The Paris Accord for the climate is accepted.” Thus pronounced Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister of France, and the President of the historic 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Just under one month after the horrific attacks in Paris that so traumatized France and the world, the French proved that they could carry on and hosted a landmark conference that significantly advances our efforts in addressing the climate crisis. It is also now 23 years since the founding of the convention at the Earth Summit in Rio. Many commentators along the way have despaired at the seeming inability of the world to adequately address the stark realities of climate change – and many naysayers will no doubt pillory the Paris Accord for being inadequate – but we have come a very long way since Rio, and not only on the level of international agreements to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases, get at massive and destructive land-use changes that further exacerbate our parlous situation, and to meet the pressing need to adapt to climate change, but also on the level of altering our way of seeing the world. We have seen the necessity for and inevitability of phasing out fossil fuels, of, in the words of the visionary German, Hermann Scheer, transitioning from a fuels-based economy to a technology-based economy. We have seen a continually broadening and deepening body of science, practical approaches to engineering sustainability into our lives, policy initiatives from the local to the international level that are daily moving us further from the environmental madness that has pervaded so much of our ever-globalizing industrial civilization, and the money, expertise and will to make it all happen.
There’s a lot for the delegates, the activists, and the world to celebrate. Much will be written and digested and discussed. There’s a lot of work yet to do. For now, here’s a breakdown of the key measures of the accord from the excellent group of NY Times reporters, led by Justin Gillis and Coral Davenport, who have been reporting and analyzing this critical story along with thousands of journalists, policy analysts, and policy makers. Enjoy the moment, folks. And get back to work first thing tomorrow.