#COP21 : valuable progress but not a conclusive victory

by , under #postcapitalism, A new era, climate change

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Of course Paris has not met all expectations, but in the end the agreement is very valuable.

Of course, the concept of “renewable energy” appears only once, in the preamble of the agreement –  with no legal value and connected to sustainable development in certain areas of the world such as Africa.

Of course, the issue of curving or limiting subsidies to fossil fuels or abandon them altogether from 2050 does not appear in the Convention.

Of course, the need to win the battle for energy efficiency or specific methodologies, or who and how will finance the $ 100 billion that have been agreed are not defined.

In short, no one will find in the Convention a word on the specifics concerning the struggle against climate change, or on what specific policies to follow.

No wonder, then, that Paris has been a great disappointment to many who see with clarity that climate change already affects millions of people, is an urgent matter and is linked to corporate greed and unsustainable business practices.

However, the Convention has been sealed with other important elements worth noting:

  1. Kyoto was signed by 15 countries; in Copenhagen nobody signed anything; but the Paris Framework was approved without objections by 195 countries, including China, India and the US.
  2. The Convention sets a goal that now is shared by all: to prevent temperature rises above 2 degrees and strive for the rise from pre-industrial levels down to 1.5 degrees.
  3. Raises a double path, reduction of greenhouse gases and mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change, with the following provisos:
  • All countries must present every five years its national contribution to the target set, and these contributions should be increasingly ambitious.
  • A common methodology will be launched to measure these contributions, there will be a “global public registry” and a constantly updated “global inventory” will be made.
  • The roadmap includes a commitment to achieve maximum emission in the shortest time possible and, in any case, a rapid decrease of emissions from 2050.
  • Developed countries will support with funding emerging or developing countries, through a fund of 100 billion.

In short, the Convention is clear about the objective assumed by all the countries present, they, in turn, agree to a global single framework to move towards this goal, and also have accepted three common mandatory principles to guide their future activity: transparency and regular information, gradual but constant progress, and proportionality in contributions.

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To put it graphically: if what was expected of Paris was the splendid view of a mighty river, what countries have been able to sign amounts to the lay out of a river and where it leads until it meets the sea. But the river does not carry water; to fill it is left to each country and each civil society organization, in their daily struggle against those still bent on wasting energy, exploiting fossil fuels, subsidize them, use them or introducing polluting products and services.

Thinking in terms of the analysis of new thinkers like Paul Mason in his “Post-capitalism”, I think we’re in a period of transition, in which a disproportionate share of power is in the hands of a minority – to which many refer as the 1% that never had it better against most.

The problem is that the effects of their irresponsible actions are beginning to threaten the very system where they are thriving. This happens in the environmental field, as in the case discussed here. But also the irresponsibility of a minority with an inordinate power is applicable to the social arena (in which we are faced with an increasingly unequal society), in the financial field (in which they aspire to a growing financialization of society) or the economy  (where they aim at preserving and strengthening monopolistic or oligopolistic structures in key areas such as basic services or the new digital economy).

In this situation – in cases like the one discussed here with regard to the Framework Convention adopted in Paris,- we can expect at the international level some progress, but no conclusive victories. A similar conclusions applies to many other long-haul international initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September at the United Nations, the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, or the 10 Principles of the Global Compact. All these great international references, point in a direction of progress from the current situation. But they also reflect the resistances to change, and, therefore, suffer from a lack of specificity regarding the real problems that must be overcome to advance in that direction.

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Rather than through straight alleys we will muddle through in making progress, because those who oppose changes will make every effort to drag their feet and stay in their comfort zone to gain time, even if they know in their hearts that the battle in the long term is already lost.

What we have to do is assess in positive terms international frameworks when they go in the right direction, such as the Paris Agreement, and, reinforced by them, resume our efforts to drive necessary changes.

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