Cop 21 Wrap Up

Paris is quiet, the BINGOs, YOUNGOs, negotiators, activists, and celebrities have gone home. But what of the agreement left in their wake? I spent the part 2 weeks following from afar; I started a new day job at an inconvenient time, but that was not the main reason for my absence. Considering the main focus of this COP would be mitigation targets and the establishment of the KP2 (second round of the Kyoto Protocol), I did not think that much would happen with the Loss and Damage work stream. While it is the crux of my research and work, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM)- which is the first iteration of a institutionalized mechanism to tackle climate induced displacement- isn’t up for renewal until 2016. So regardless of its general importance, I had not anticipated that my area would move forward much.

Nonetheless, I spent every waking hour the last 2 weeks scouring my listservs, Twitter feed, and news articles and contacting some of my colleagues on the ground. And it was a doozy. While most large news networks are touting the agreement as some sort of ‘miracle’, I don’t think one can agree to that from the inside perspective. To download the text click here. There were articles touting this achievement as the largest part of President Obama’s legacy- which I cannot remotely agree with knowing that the US negotiators tried to insert a clause into the main text to prevent any nation from suing it for “damages”. Or when the US threatened to walk out over financial obligations. And maybe this was also hard to believe when in the FINAL MINUTES the US brought the whole negotiation to a halt over the #shallgate #shouldshall (as per Twitter) when they claimed a word change and its implications would further bind it and unless it was changed, it would not agree- and China had to intervene.

Now, Saudi Arabia did spend most of the COP as the perpetual “bad guy” and the (almost) daily whipping boy of the Climate Action Network (CAN). But, in end, we do have a deal- this is a good thing. But what will happen next? Each nation has to live up to ACTUALLY live up to its commitments and this is still VERY questionable. And in many ways the deal is still weak as many have questioned its fairness toward the most vulnerable- they are still very much in jeopardy and an aspirational goal on paper will do little to help their plight.

All in all, diplomatic success is no substitute for dealing with the urgent needs of those most affected by climate change- but this will be the focus of the COP22 in Morocco. With goals locked in toward long term emissions cuts- next year can focus on what was overlooked, forgotten, and negotiated out of this years’ agreement: human rights, climate justice, displacement, and compensation. See you in Marrakesh.

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