This December’s climate summit in Paris will be the most important moment for the Global Climate Treaty (GCT) movement to date, and top UN officials are already hard at work lowering expectations. In February, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres acknowledged that the commonly touted target of 2 degrees Celsius of warming—a nice round number scientists say we need to adhere to lest the effects of climate change begin to wreak havoc—likely wouldn’t play a large role in Paris, saying that the summit will “not get us onto the 2C pathway.”
With that bit of hedging done, Figueres is now talking down the economic costs of the conference’s possible proposals, presumably courting the developing world, which is keen to continue growing. Reuters reports:
“The bottom line (is that) this is an agreement and a path that is protective of growth and development rather than threatening to growth and development,” Figueres told an online news conference.
The deal would be “enabling and facilitating” rather than a “punitive-type” agreement, she said.
This all sounds very nice, and in fact it’s probably the best outcome that could be hoped for from Paris, but it’s not what greens have been campaigning for these recent years. The modern environmental movement seems to consider economic growth to be the enemy of our planet’s health, and from this has reasoned that such growth must be restricted by international treaty—the GCT.
But as we’ve written before, that outcome isn’t going to happen. Every nation acts in their own best interests, and no one is going to sign on to a treaty that contains mechanisms to quash development in the name of curtailing emissions.
Figueres has gotten caught up in quixotic green fights before (her comments on the climate divestment movement come to mind), but here she seems to be coming around to the reality of the situation that delegates will face later this year in France. It’s a hopeful sign that someone in her position is acknowledging that development and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive. Already the information revolution is showing signs of “decoupling” growth from emissions, and we’re only just beginning that transition to a less energy-intensive economy.
The UN’s top climate official is seemingly on the right track, but greens around the world won’t be satisfied with what she’s hinting at. They’ve got seven months to brace themselves.