Paris Climate Summit

Approx read: 2 mins

Following the November attacks on Paris, one seasoned reporter was asked his initial thoughts as world leaders gathered for the UN climate summit amid even tighter security arrangements given the previous weeks’ incidents in the city.

“Climate?” he said. “The only climate I’m sensing is one of fear.”

It was probably the truest of any sound bite to come out of the talks, though the concept of fear was misplaced with attention on jihadists rather than the health of a planet that is moving in a direction that climate data shows is increasingly worrying.

Now what to do? Saving the planet implies doing more than you would do if you ignored global warming signs and consequences completely. For nations to take action to save the planet requires a real commitment of collective effort of doing more than just looking out for your own economic self-interest; it’s doing at least a little to ‘save the planet’.

196 countries are involved in this process – getting consensus and a plan of action obviously didn’t work even though the UN trumpeted success.

greens_climate/CC BY 2.0

First, the non-starters:

North Korea is isolated from the rest of the world and won’t participate in the climate discussion or any other talks. Syria is in the midst of a devastating civil war. Libya remains violent and unstable after the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 while Nepal, normally a keen participant in the U.N. climate talks, is recovering from a powerful earthquake earlier this year and didn’t collect its contributory data or sign any pledges.

The biggest countries not to present pledges yet are Uzbekistan and Venezuela, a major oil producer which often blasts the West for not doing more to fight global warming. Venezuela’s minister of eco-socialism, Guillermo Barreto, said the country is withholding its pledge until it knows what commitments wealthy countries will put down in the agreement.

And the big boys?

China has made its pledge on the basis that its smog is choking its own citizens in major cities and therefore something has to be done. That economic self-interest theme also raises its head with China’s plan to be a world leader in renewables. If this rising superpower legislates correctly and forces (not leads) everyone else to suddenly go greener then you’ve created a ready market that needs a supplier.

China, like the US and most European nations had a look at what was expected and the pledged only what they were prepared to do for the business opportunity that existed. The UN then held up these pledges like a trophy and claimed that the summit succeeded. All this UN success will probably come far too late for Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and possibly the Maldives. The pledges don’t actually start until 2020 and won’t be checked until 2030.

How is it that sensible and normally rational people acquire such arrogance to the concept that we can control the climate and the rate at which we’re damaging it, and ultimately how it will affect us all? ‘Force of nature’ won’t be an outdated saying when the planet turns around and delivers a bish-bash-bosh to everyone, within a generation.