“The Paris agreement failed those who most needed it: women of the global south who have contributed nothing to the problem but suffering the greatest, most deadly impact” (Tess Vistro)
“This deal does not deliver climate justice: Justice requires accountability, responsibility, remedies and action by the perpetrators. Polluters got another unwarranted good behaviour bond and more opportunities to profit from climate change.” (Kate Lappin)
“I came here to demand justice for Indigenous women in the mountains of Nepal shouldering the burden of climate change. But our voices have not been heard. Our rights as Indigenous peoples and as women were simply traded away. The loss of our cultures, our lands, our livelihoods and our lives were seen as a liability threat to rich countries who cut us from the purpose of the agreement and then underlined the fact that they will not compensate us for loss and damage” (Alina Saba).
In the past two weeks governments were presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to prevent catastrophic climate change and create a path toward a more just, equitable and sustainable future. But instead governments bargained over whose lives are worth saving, whose rights are worth upholding, whose cultures can be discarded and who can profit from climate change.
Human rights were easily bargained in the past week. Governments couldn’t agree that the purpose of the agreement would include upholding human rights, Indigenous peoples rights, the rights of people in occupied territories or gender equality while ensuring a just transition of the economy and decent work. Indigenous peoples and just transitions were traded early. The US insisted that the agreement couldn’t include a purpose that would protect the rights of people in occupied territories so they traded gender equality with Saudi Arabia.
And so those least responsible for climate change, particularly women in the most affected countries of the global south, will continue to pay the highest price.
The purpose does include better language on the temperature goal (hold temperature increase to well below 2c and make efforts to limit it to 1.5c). But there is nothing in the agreement that would make that commitment meaningful.
The agreement includes no binding emissions cuts; No target to end the use of fossil fuels; No renewable energy target. There is no way to ensure we move from the current emissions reduction contributions (that put the world on the path to a 3.2 to 3.7c increase) to the stated goal. There is no way to make sure that rich countries who caused the climate crisis do their ‘fair share’ in cutting GHG emissions and financing the shift needed for a sustainable and equitable future.
In the opening speeches many leaders, including President Obama, spoke of climate justice. While earlier versions of the agreement included several references to climate justice and even the proposal for a ‘climate justice tribunal’, the only reference retained is a dismissive reference in the pre-ambular section ‘noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”’. And perhaps this is accurate. The bedrock of justice is accountability. There can be no justice without responsibility, without remedies and without addressing and dismantling inherently unjust systems.
The failure of the agreement is illustrated by the omissions. There’s no reference to fossil fuels, to historical responsibilities, to polluter pays, to remedies, to binding commitments. The only reference to compensation is one that specifically excludes compensation and responsibility. References to ‘new, additional and predictable finance’ have disappeared making climate finance dangerously vague. The agreement also failed to include phantom polluters – the military, shipping, international aviation. Military emissions have been excluded since Kyoto at the insistence of the USA. Not surprising then that the US military is the single largest consumer of energy in the world. If the US military was a country they would count 34th in world rankings – higher than the total emissions of Sweden.
With the conference sponsored by large corporations it is no surprise that the agreement failed to tackle the root cause of climate change – globalised capitalism. It is not possible to address climate change without addressing the over-consumption and entrenched political power of the world’s richest 1%. Instead the text is littered with veiled references to false solutions that allow countries to keep emitting while offsetting emissions through untested and dangerous technology like carbon capture storage or by commercialising lands through ‘carbon sinks’ that displace women dependent on subsistence farming.
Worse still, governments are simultaneously negotiating trade agreements that make any efforts to combat climate change and end reliance on dirty fuels impossible. In neighboring Geneva governments were simultaneously negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement where ‘technological neutrality’ clauses make it impossible for countries to subsidise renewable energies or refuse to purchase dirty energy.
But Paris has not been without hope. Throught the 2 weeks civil society was galvanized and showed that there is another path, a path to a sustainable and more just future. Inside and outside the negotiations civil society revealed the real answers are in energy democracy, in reconfiguring economies, in altering consumption, in changing relationships between women and men, in Development Justice. Yesterday civil society staged a sit-in inside the COP and today over 15,000 people defied French security bans to demand system change, not climate change. Our chant will remain with us as we continue to build women’s climate movements: ‘we are unstoppable, another world is possible’.