Green Dreams
Looks Like We’re Ditching a Key Climate Goal in Paris

When greens speak of 2C, they aren’t referring to some acronym for climate change, but rather to 2 degrees Celsius. That’s the level of warming, compared to pre-industrial averages, that many scientists have picked as a conveniently round-numbered target we ought to avoid if we know what’s good for us. But as we head into the final stretch before December’s climate summit in Paris, it looks like 2C is all but dead. Reuters reports:

“Paris will be a funeral without a corpse,” said David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, who predicts the 2C goal will slip away despite insistence by many governments that is still alive.

“It’s just not feasible,” said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Two degrees is a focal point for the climate debate but it doesn’t seem to be a focal point for political action.”

The UN’s own climate chief Christiana Figueres admitted in February that the Paris meeting would “not get us onto the 2C pathway,” perhaps trying to deflate expectations for what many greens hope will be a historic moment for the movement to craft a Global Climate Treaty (GCT). Her comments, along with those reported above, follow a pattern of scrupulous hedging in the Paris run-up. Figueres followed up her 2C comments with a promise that the summit will focus on “enabling and facilitating” as opposed to some kind of “punitive-type” deal, envisioning a kind of toothless GCT reminiscent of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact.

As host of this seemingly inevitable disappointment, France hasn’t held back in expressing its dismay at the current state of play. Last week French president Francois Hollande lamented the fact that only 37 of the 196 UN member states had submitted the required national-level climate action plans—called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). French environment minister Ségolène Royal added her voice to the swelling chorus of discontent shortly thereafter, criticizing the structure of the climate negotiations as the “main obstacle” to their success.

Greens were able to build hype for Paris when it was some far-off idea, but as negotiators prepare to descend on the French capital and attempt to reach consensus, the breathless enthusiasm is falling victim to the enormity of the task being undertaken. Momentum is stalling at the worst—and unfortunately most predictable—time.

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