Now that the media hype has passed some calm reflection on the Paris Climate Change agreement is called for, written in tranquillity rather than in the heat of the moment.
It is certainly better than Copenhagen.
This time there is at least an agreement and it could help push the world out of the danger zone, as it commits to keeping global average temperatures increases “well below” 2 degrees celsius with best endeavours to hold it to 1.5 degrees celsius.
The long-term goal for the second half of this century is net zero emissions globally, with emissions peaking as soon as possible.
It also includes pledges from 186 nations of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to take action to stop growth of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
There’s US$100 billion in climate finance to help developing countries cope with climate change, so the global justice issues have not been entirely ignored.
However, there’s a great deal that is hardly worth celebrating.
Much of the agreement, for example, is non-binding.
Even if each nation fulfils its INDC, average temperature rise is likely to be above 2C to a frightening 2.7. What matters is getting to zero net emissions as soon and as fairly as possible. This agreement on its own will not be enough.
So what should Australia be doing? To begin with, we must commit to stronger targets and implement them, including an immediate end to fuel subsidies.
We must reject all new coal and gas projects to avoid the risk of making the transition to a post-carbon economy unnecessarily expensive and difficult.
And of course our response must include the phasing out of all existing fossil-fuel power stations and coal and gas projects, with socially just-transition funding for employees and affected communities.
Yet Treasurer Morrison’s response to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook last week shows that its commitments are hollow.
The Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is still on the chopping block, a further $317 million is to be cut from the very successful Landcare program, and the government is wasting $2 million on the completely unnecessary Wind Farm Commissioner.
And to top off the government’s hypocrisy, the $1 billion pledged for developing countries to deal with global warming is being drained out of the foreign aid budget, which was already at a record low.
So to avoid feeling helpless and frustrated, what can we do as individuals? A great deal, in fact. For example, we could all sign up to a campaign for a state based Renewable Energy Scheme, such as the one being championed by Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
We can all also join an existing community energy project, or start one. Here in Wagga there’s the Climate Rescue of Wagga (CROW) project.
We can all also divest from the fossil fuel industries. You don’t need investments in coal or oil to do that, simply don’t use the four big banks, which have huge investments in these industries.
We can also switch electricity providers to those not in bed with coal.
And of course you can vote. Both federal and local government elections are being held in 2016, so use your vote to back candidates who have a firm and demonstrated commitment to policies that will ensure that we make the Paris agreement a reality.
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