The Slow Violence of Climate Change


2011 flooding in Bangkok, Thailand. 2011 flooding in Bangkok, Thailand.
2011 flooding in Bangkok, Thailand. (photo: Panerai87/Flickr)

 

Sara Nelson | Jacobin | Reader Supported News | February 19, 2016

The spectacle of international climate negotiations shows that climate justice won’t come through existing institutions.

 

he Paris Agreement, achieved December 12 at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21), has been heralded as a “turning point for humanity” and “a new type of international cooperation.” In his remarks to the General Assembly following the close of COP21, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it “a triumph for people, the planet, and multilateralism.”

More critical voices have pointed to the “wrinkles” that mar the agreement, while influential climate scientist James Hanson has dismissed it as “just worthless words.” Most commentary falls in a middle ground, viewing the agreement as an important, if faltering, step in the right direction: even if we’re not entirely happy with what has been achieved, that something was achieved at all signals a “political will” for change.

But the drama and significance of the COP as an event isn’t primarily about the emergence of an agreement. The history of international climate negotiations — with the exception of the spectacular failure at Copenhagen — boasts a long line of Outcomes, Accords, and even Protocols. Throughout, emissions have continued not only unabated, but at an accelerated pace.

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