Being raised in a rural village in Belgium, living in the busy and polluted city of Barcelona makes me crave for some fresh air every now and then. I am certainly not the only one. 90% of the world’s urban population is breathing polluted air. Sometimes called the silent killer, air pollution is responsible for nearly half a million premature deaths a year in Europe alone. I know everyone is freaking out about ISIS right now, but the real killer is all around us and we have created it ourselves.
Very soon we will find out the truth. No, I’m not talking about whether John Snow comes back in season 6 of Games of Thrones or not. I’m thinking about the Paris Agreement and if it will become reality any time soon.
If you’ve not been living under a rock the last year, I don’t have to remind you the historical day of December 12th 2015. For the first time in human history, all 195 countries in the Conference of Parties (COP) adopted a globally binding climate agreement.
In the months after, I’ve heard a cacophony of opinions on the agreement. One calls the Paris climate conference one large play with a very disappointment conclusion, the other a big victory for mankind. I invite you to (re-) read my reflections on COP21 –I didn’t change my mind in the meantime.
That being said, you might be wondering if the agreement has died a silent death. Not at all. But before the Paris Agreement can kick into action, we have to get trough a whole procedure of signing and ratifying. Bear with me.
Now the media attention about COP21 has died out a bit and I had the chance to have a better look at the Paris Agreement, it’s time to make up the balance of the text called historical by the negotiators and bullsh*t by climate activists.
If you ask me, reaching any agreement between 195 countries on a topic that affects nearly all aspects of our societies is quite historical whatsoever. It took them twenty-one climate summits to get it, that is twenty too many. But hey, here we are.
Is it enough? Of course not. But if you read my blog post at the beginning of COP21, you know that I was not expecting that. To be honest, when I was going through the drafts of the agreement circulating during the two-week summit, I was optimistic. Some of the good things have made it to the final text, some have not.
If by now you don’t know that something really big is happening in Paris, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last few months. Yes, I’m talking about COP21, the long-anticipated climate summit. For more than a year, organisations around the world have been mobilizing for climate actions on the 28th and 29th of November to sent a strong signal to world leaders at the start of the event. Indeed, around the world thousands of people took it to the streets to march, sing and dance for the climate. But in the epicenter of the talks, the Paris’ climate march was forbidden in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks nearly three weeks ago.
Fair enough, you say. Safety first. But I was in Paris last weekend and what I saw and learnt from the people there was another story. The Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées was no problem to secure. All football matches are being played. No problems whatsoever. Last year a massive manifestation with more than 50 world leaders ahead marched through the streets of Paris to pay tributes to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Not a single issue for the French police back then. But now the authorities claim they can not guarantee the safety of public events related to the climate summit. In the meantime they have enough policemen to conduct house searches in climate activist workshops and putting people under house arrest without any reason –which they don’t need right now by the way. Officially there is still a state of emergency in which the French police doesn’t need permissions for house searches etc, thanks to a law that was voted shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack last year. How convenient.
Anyway, if the French authorities really thought they could stop a climate activists so easily, they were wrong. Several creative actions popped up. If the people cannot march, the shoes will march for them; that was the idea behind the silent march. Thousands pairs of shoes filled the Place de la République in Paris, including one of Pope Francis and Ban Ki-Moon. A human chain stretched along the original route of the march; as long as people stay on the pavement organizers don’t need official permission. Activist group Brandalism was so bold to replace advertisements in the streets of Paris with their own version of ads for big polluting companies who sponsor the climate conference. You see, the climate movement is clearly not intimidated. More creative actions are under way for week 2 of the talks.
Today the long-anticipated climate conference will take off on Paris. Also known as COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties, the climate talks are decisive for the future of our planet and all lucky enough to enjoy what she has to offer. What would a successful outcome look like? Is there any hope we will get there after two weeks of negotiations? A look into the future.
“We are the first generation that can end poverty and we are the last generation that can end climate change.” –Ban Ki-Moon