We have a deal! How good is it? The environmental cause created a new social movement, giving authority to real leaders, with real ideas to make real change. Momentum was created; structures were sound, dedication was in abundance and optimism, science and common sense prevailed. Let me say it one more sweet time - we have a deal! It is a deal to start addressing global action on climate change and to accelerate the transition to clean energy. How good is it to end the year on a high? How good is it to have some good news? How good is it to be on the right side of history? We have a bloody deal!
In climate politics in Australia over the last two or so years, we have had some low, very low, moments. The world was leaving Australia behind. Throughout, the environment movement in Australia kept on the government’s case - supported ably by allies internationally and centrist local media. This dedication and objectivity paid off. Australia was shamed into doing the right thing in Paris. It was like watching a child taking cough medicine.
Compare the optimism, leadership, forward thinking, sense of urgency, creative thinking and spirit of co-operation that we have seen in UN circles over the last few years (and which culminated in Paris) with the shenanigans in Australia over the last two or so years. There was a full blown war on climate policy, the transition to clean energy and conservation as a whole. There were attacks on nearly every element of climate policy; plans to close government agencies; the white-anting of science and research structures; reduced renewable energy targets; unambitious emission reduction targets; witch hunt inquiries into green groups; crack-pot claims about wind farms; investment in solar fell off a cliff; funding for climate muck-rakers (I am talking about you Bjørn Lomborg); denial at the highest level (I am talking about you Maurice Newman) and moves to thwart legal challenges to developments. And that’s not all of it! One phrase describes the last two years - bitter sweet. It has gone from one to the other.
I won’t go into the deep detail of the Paris deal - there’s plenty of really good stuff on the record. Much of it is in the Weekend Reading section. The graphic from Agence France-Presse is a good summary of the key elements. If you want further detail, there’s another great graphic at The Conversation and the Climate Institute has a very good briefing paper with excellent graphics. My key takeouts from Paris and the process leading up to it were:
What’s become clear in the days since the agreement is that all of the key players recognise that
the really hard work now has to be done to make this deal real. The consensus is that it was appropriate the celebrate the ‘victory’ at the weekend and mark the moment in history but it will all count for nothing unless there is sustained and rigorous follow though. This final piece for 2015 will look at some of the centrist media commentary on the deal.
Observer (Guardian on Sunday): “Those involved will need some very firm reminders of the consequences of any failure to adhere to the strictures of deals that have been hammered out in Paris. An image of a world of dying coral reefs, disappearing glaciers and flooded coastlines - the best we have for the future, as we have said - should help stiffen our resolve when we consider the changes that we need bring about to ensure we leave the planet in a healthy state for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Our world is going to change, mostly for the worse. That is now inevitable. But what can be avoided are the sorts of devastating scenarios that will be realised if global temperatures rise by three or four or more degrees by the end of this century, rises that will unleash far more dramatic and catastrophic changes to the planet. These latter calamities can now be circumvented if the agreement reached in Paris yesterday is followed up by real commitments, by individual nations, to stop burning coal, oil and gas over the next two decades. A start has been made. A lot more will be required in the coming decades.”
Guardian (Monday): “One anxiety is whether this fortuitous alignment of political and economic stars will remain, as nations move from making promises, towards real action. Paris cannot guarantee success, but it does encourage hope. Paris has given the world new hope in the possibilities of pragmatic diplomacy, at a time when France’s own politics illustrate the difficulties of assuming solidarity extends beyond national borders. If the answer to climate change is going to have to be found in continuous haggling between 200 nations, then success is also going to depend on winning the argument against narrow nationalism in every corner of the world.”
Guardian (Tuesday): “The Minister for Energy, Mrs Rudd: “…recently committed to phasing out coal power stations, and sounded serious about it too, emphasising the particular role of cleanish modern gas facilities. A few weeks later, however, came a UK capacity market auction, which awarded coal contracts, did nothing about constructing the mooted cleaner gas facilities, and most bizarrely sponsored the mushrooming of small generators which run off grimy diesel. So here’s hoping that the electricity of Paris will have given Ms Rudd the sort of shock that might jolt her from half-decent intentions into a real and lasting commitment to act.”
The Economist: “The Paris agreement marks an unprecedented political recognition of the risks of climate change. Perhaps the most significant effect of the Paris agreement in the next few years will be the signal it sends to investors: the united governments of the world say that the age of fossil fuels has started drawing to a close. That does not mean that they are necessarily right, nor that the closing will not be much more drawn out than the Marshall Islands and other such states would wish. But after Paris, the belief that governments are going to stay the course on their stated green strategies will feel a bit better founded—and the idea of investing in a coal mine will seem more risky.”
New York Times: “The behavior of individual governments will be critical in determining whether the world moves forward with clean-energy technologies. Much was said about how the agreement sent a strong “signal” to investors, and indeed, Paris was swarming with corporate chieftains and Silicon Valley heavyweights. But the strength of that signal will depend heavily on whether governments are willing to promote such investments while removing the tax subsidies that favor dirtier fossil fuels — perhaps to the point of embracing carbon taxes.”
Sydney Morning Herald: “During the past two years Australia lost global leadership as the Abbott government ditched the carbon tax and chose to limit actions to the bare minimum under pressure from climate change denialists. The other excuse – that we won’t act until others do – is now gone too. It is clear Australia needs to become more innovative and invest more heavily in green technologies to adapt to the post-Paris world. By contrast to the situation three months ago, we are far better placed to be pragmatic and entrepreneurial in finding stronger policies to play our part. The next election will not be so much about knocking down climate change policies but about finding the ones that work most efficiently for the lowest cost in meeting increasingly difficult and costly targets. The game has been changed forever, for the good of us and especially for generations to come.”
The Sydney Morning Herald ended it perfectly. Have a great festive season. I’ll be back in January. Well done everybody.
Must read - international
Naomi Klein via New York Times: Naomi Klein: the year when people yelled ‘Fire!’
Bill McKibben via The Guardian: Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?
Paul Krugman in New York Times: Hope From Paris
New York Times: A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making
Guardian: How US negotiators ensured landmark Paris climate deal was Republican-proof
Must read - Australia
Guardian: What does the Paris climate agreement mean for Australia?
The Conversation: Historic Paris climate pact reached – experts react
The Conversation: After Paris: now what for Australia's climate policy?
Sydney Morning Herald: Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Paris delivers, but can Malcolm Turnbull?
Climate Institute (PDF): The Paris climate agreement and implications for Australia
Climate Council (PDF): Paris COP21: Key issues for the new climate agreement
Washington Post: Economists: Climate change is going to cost a lot more than previously thought
Slate: Economists: Buckle Up, Climate Change Is Going to Be a Rough Ride
NewsWeek: Prying Open the Financial Risks of Climate Change
Politics and policy
Renew Economy: Historic and ambitious climate deal signals end of fossil fuel era
Renew Economy: Lomborg legacy: Why Turnbull Coalition still doesn’t get it
Deutsche Welle: Al Gore, politician and environmentalist, US - Faces of Climate Change
ABC The Drum - Turnbull and Paris: Who will speak for the sceptics now?
Guardian: Government must shake off hangover of mining to unleash true innovation
ABC - The World Today (Audio): Paris deal won't save the planet, but it gives us a fair chance: Giles Parkinson
Climate Reality: This Is a Turning Point: Three Things You Need to Know About the Paris Agreement
Scientific American: A Turning Point in Combating Climate Change May Be Here
Renew Economy: Hidden gem in Paris deal condemns coal to early demise
New York Times: Climate Deal Is Signal to Industry: The Era of Carbon Reduction Is Here
Renew Economy: Paris deal: Great for wind and solar, and a $46 trillion hit to fossil fuels
Guardian: Coal lobby boss says industry 'will be hated like slave-traders' after COP21
Business green: Turnbull lifts Australian green bank ban on wind power investment
Toronto Star: What will his life be like with climate change?
New Yorker: Miami Underwater
Marketing and communication
Lowy Interpreter: Wanted: An authoritative and encompassing information source on climate change
Refinery29: These Doodles Perfectly Sum Up What You Need To Know About The Paris Climate Deal
Climate Communication: The climate changed this weekend for marketing and communication
Climate Communication: Climate Change for Brands and Reputation - Responsibility Plus Bulletin #059 for 15 December 2015
John Connor (Climate Institute) via Renew Economy: Paris climate agreement: Now it’s time for the real work to start
Friends of the Earth via The Guardian: Cameron must make a climate U-turn immediately if he isn’t to betray Paris
The Conversation: Climate and the rise and fall of civilizations: a lesson from the past
News Corp: Why warming is making it colder
CLIMATE COMMUNICATION PUBLICATIONS
Responsibility Plus Bulletin (Tuesday): Read or Subscribe
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This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm