Since the final deal was agreed in Paris, we have seen numerous reactions from Governments, UN agencies, and civil society groups on what was achieved at COP21. Many voiced celebration of an historic agreement over 20 years in the making- an agreement that marks a turning point in the fight against climate change. Others hailed the ‘end of the fossil fuel era‘, and the start of a clear transition to a renewable energy future. And many climate justice advocates, including the members of the Women and Gender Constituency, were quick to provide a ‘reality check‘ to the world, of what this agreement does and does not do.
There is a sense that to move forward we must find hope in what is, in essence, the best outcome that could be achieved in an unjust and unequal world. However, at WEDO, our hope is not in the words agreed in Paris but clearly grounded in the determined activism and voice of a growing climate justice movement which is unafraid to challenge the Paris Agreement for the numerous ways in which the outcome failed to rise to the moment to ensure protection for people, communities and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts.
We went to Paris calling for system change, not climate change. We went with determination to ensure human rights, gender equality, indigenous people’s rights, intergenerational equity, a just transition were securely anchored in the final outcome.
We didn’t get system change in Paris. Far from it. Too much power (political, financial, media, etc) remains in the hands of the wealthy and connected. We are missing specific language to urgently phase out fossil fuels, to move from a floor of $100 billion to predictably and adequately finance adaptation and mitigation, to provide compensation for loss and damage already happening in places that had no hand in causing climate change, to ensure safe, environmentally and socially sound technologies. We are missing language on gender equality in mitigation, technology and finance. Our colleagues at Heinrich Boell Foundation – North America have provided an excellent issue by issue analysis of the final agreement.
So where can we point to progress? We can and absolutely should recognize the significance of having an articulated temperature goal in the Paris Agreement of keeping warming well under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the point at which we know that communities in the Pacific will lose their homelands, and countries across the Global South will suffer increasing loss and damage. It is no easy feat to get countries to agree in multilateral processes, let alone recognize the need for a united ambitious goal. But it should be clear to all that while the Paris agreement gives us aspiration, it fails to follow through on action.
The achievement of this goal is in the hands of our movement– to hold Governments accountable – to call out hypocrisy in policies which go against the achievement of this goal- such as two in the last few days, the lift of a 40-year oil export ban by the U.S., or the U.K. slashing solar subsidies. We also must continue to hold leaders to account when they enter into unjust trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which allow for companies to potentially sue governments for policies made in the public’s interest- such as reforms in the energy sector.
In an excellent piece on the next steps for an ever growing and inclusive climate justice movement– one which women, youth, indigenous peoples and workers are at the heart of- The Guardian’s Martin Lukacs quotes Amilcar Cabral, leader of the anti-colonial liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau, who reminded the movement to: “Tell no lies. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”
As the Women and Gender Constituency concluded in final hours of the closing plenary at COP21 on Saturday evening,
“We will not be silenced from telling the truth to power, to highlight the lack of ambition and injustice in this agreement. We have used this space of international policy-making to raise our voices and embolden our movements. Together, we will continue to challenge injustice for the protection of the people and the planet.”
The climate justice movement is rising, with women at the center, unafraid to speak truth to power, and unwavering in our campaign for climate justice. This is where you can find hope that COP21 will be the turning point for a more just and sustainable world, as we are more determined than ever to push world leaders to keep their promises.