From the vantage point of being at COP21, I have to agree with the statements made here. And I’ll add this; despite the halting agreements and the commitments (double-talk not withstanding), the advances in technologies for methane capture (such as those dairy herds that the New Zealand Prime Minister is so determined to hang onto), it remains my conviction that the kind of change required for long-term survival of the remaining ecosystems can only be effected from the ground up. That is where the real will resides. Nonetheless I share the concern of fellow climate activists and concerned citizens, that the greatest challenge of all may be to convince our fellow human occupants of the planet. And not only them. I may be willing to give up driving a car, but my smart phone? my iPad? my laptop? That is the rub.
“A major sticking point to getting all countries to sign onto any agreement is the question of historical responsibility and the concern of poorer nations that climate mitigation not hamper their continued “development.” China’s President, Xi Jinping, said in a speech on the first day of the Paris talks that “addressing climate change should not deny the legitimate needs of developing countries to reduce poverty and improve living standards.” Another key question is whether the Paris agreement will be legally binding. In this, countries’ preferences may come down to their political realities at home. It’s kind of hard for President Obama to commit to a legally binding agreement (which would require ratification) when he’s busy trying to fend off Congressional attempts to undo his Clean Power Plan and block US contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. So at the end of this historic meeting we may well wind up with a nonbinding agreement that badly overshoots the 2°C target, doesn’t go into effect until 2020, ends ten years later, and counts on unproven technologies and unspecified promises of financial aid to countries most at risk. It’s hard to square that with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening admonition: “We cannot afford indecision, half measures or merely gradual approaches. Our goal must be a transformation.” Despite all this, I happen to agree with those that believe an agreement in Paris is absolutely critical, even if it is woefully, dangerously insufficient – especially if that agreement has transparency provisions and legally-binding periodic reviews, which President Obama champions. It’s much easier to build momentum when you’re already moving forward, however slowly and haltingly.