Despatches from Paris. #COP21

“In the international context of reaching a global deal on limiting emissions that are accelerating climate change Minister Mckenna made the following statement: “We need an agreement that is going to be legally binding.” She then goes on to say, “there will be some parts, you know, to reflect the reality, that some countries have concerns with all aspects being binding, that maybe all aspects won’t be binding.”

The Minister starts off by stating the need for binding agreements that force countries to take the necessary action to try and limit the changes in climate that are affecting billions of people around the world. She then, in the same sentence, acknowledges that those countries who have concerns will not have to be bound by the terms. Which is it?” (Envisionation,

Which is it indeed. Well actually, it turns out that its both. There is optimism that a binding agreement will be met but no, it will not be an actual treaty, because that would be, well, you know, binding, and clearly that will not work for Canada and the US whose economies depend upon continuing to produce carbon emissions. As the second largest emitter of carbon emissions, the US could not possibly be bound by this, nor could China who, as well as enormous investment in solar energy has committed an even larger amount to developing new  coal-fired plants every month for the immediate future. Nor could Canada… not, at least, without unimaginably severe consequences for its economy and hence its population (s).  So the narrative goes.

Here then is the supreme irony. While today at least, it does appear as though we will indeed see an historic agreement reached on limiting global warming, only parts of it will be binding, and it may be more binding on some countries that on others. Not only that, but the total commitments made as of today add up to a minimum of 2.7 degrees increase in global warming – and in the long term, that is not survivable.

Watching this unfold is an interesting exercise on one level and a terrifying one on another. Yet its a start, and one that we have not had before.

Am I optimistic?  Barely, but… somewhat. Do I believe that change will come? Yes. Because it must. But rather than government negotiations, the necessary and desperately needed change will occur due to people and organizations on the ground. Because our grandchildren’s survival is at stake. Not the planet, She WILL survive, but our grandchildren will not.

Still, on all counts it needs to be recognized that progress is being made. And so, it seems, is an historic agreement.

Author: Makere

A transplanted New Zealand Scots/Maori academic/grandmother/random singer and sometime activist, my life is shaped by a deep conviction of the necessity for active critical engagement in the multi-faceted global and local crises of being and survival of species that confront us in the 21st century, the urgency of re-visioning the meaning of thriving together, and the contribution of Indigenous knowledge systems to a truly sustainable and just global society.

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