Introduction: It’s been two and a half weeks since the COP21 concluded, and it has taken as long for me to feel I could begin forming my own perspective on the events. In one of the last remaining assemblies where all nations are equitably represented, according to the aspirations of the mission, and progress is made only by consensus, 196 countries for the first time in history reached agreement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC. The unity necessary for nations to together begin addressing industrially-produced greenhouse gas emissions was at last achieved. I believe, in part despite the criticisms of the agreement leveled by members of both the diverse global political left and and right, that when placed in the proper, nuanced, and historical perspective, the accord represents a terrific and tremendous success. Indeed, if there was one strain of pessimism many of my friends and associates expressed before and during the conference, it was that the event would represent only “médiaques,” simply “media hype,” the image of progress without the substance of promise and action. In this post, I engage in a critical reflection on the Paris Agreement, offer my optimistic sense of what it offers, what it leaves to be done, and a speculation on where we go from here. It is my position that is precisely the image of the accord–as opposed to its actuality–that will make what it purposeively aims to do achievable. Towards this end, I also include some of my favorite images from the ArtCOP21 festival and climate-related events in which I was fortunate enough to participate.
Today marks the halfway point of the COP21 United Nations Climate Summit, a multinational effort–including some 30,000 delegates and diplomats from 195 countries–to produce a global accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow and eventually stop human-produced global warming, and begin to alleviate environmental problems associated with the industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels. Because the climate negotiators are taking today as a break, I felt it a good time to offer my summary and assessment of how matters have progressed in Paris.
Reason for Optimism
Overall, I have been heartened by a number of the advancements made. The discussion at the conference has, in large part, served to validate the optimism that columnist Mark Hertsgaard showed in his critical piece that appeared in The Nation last month. There, Hertsgaard made the case that “popular pressure” ahead of the COP21 has actively moved policy makers towards positions that would increasingly “leave fossil fuels in the ground.” This represents a major departure from the failed talks in Copenhagen in 2009, when public opinion had not yet turned in favor of policy-based action against global warming to the extent it has today. This shift is borne out by recent polling: two-thirds of Americans now believe that the US should join an international treaty to stop global warming. Continue reading COP21: Halfway Through
As I detailed in my first post this academic year, I am in Paris on a critical theory fellowship studying French philosophy and environmental history. This month, two particularly significant events took place: the first–as part of the “Make It Work” initiative at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (« Sciences Po »)–was Forum COP21: Civil Society Committed to the Environment; the second was the 2015 iteration of the Nuit Blanche arts festival, where the city stays up all night to look at art. This year’s theme, fittingly in support of COP21, and as part of ArtCOP21, was “atmospheres.”
In this post, I detail both events. My intent is to be more journalistic than interpretive, leaving the content of these events open as much as possible for interpretation by the blog’s audience, excepting a few places where I bring the methods of environmental history and critical thought into play, and experiment with some quantitative analysis of environmental issues.