Paris COP21: a deal, a gap and a chance for hope

We all know there are no jobs on a dead planet.

We all know there is a need to stay well below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase to prevent chaos and distress for millions on this planet.

We all know that governments and companies have embarked us instead on a 3°C trajectory.

And despite knowing all this, what the Paris COP21 showed is that governments still have a hard time taking the necessary steps to change directions.

Let’s be clear, the Paris agreement sets the right goal: to stay well below an average temperature increase of 2°C by the end of the century, and aim at 1.5°C. However, it leaves us in the fog when it comes to the means by which we will achieve this.

The “soft governance” climate regime arising from Paris means that the likelihood of achieving any goal will be directly related to the mobilisation of citizens in each country.

Parties to the deal did not agree to a sound, independent review of their national contributions before and after 2020; it will, therefore, be up to social movements to do so, as we did with the “fair shares” report, which showed that some countries don’t even come close to playing their part in the effort to stay on track for a safe planet.

The Paris agreement does not legally oblige rich nations to mobilise more than US$100 billion a year after 2020. Again, it is up to us, in particular in the developed world, not to lose track of this promise.

Negotiators relegated to the preamble of the agreement the commitment to secure workers with a just transition and decent work opportunities, in what will become the biggest industrial transformation of our generation. It is of course up to us, in particular in the labour movement, to build on this recognition to make the dialogue happen in each country.

While some left Paris satisfied, I left the COP21 with an even deeper sense of urgency. Over the years, unions have grown in their understanding and commitment to the climate challenge, but a lot more remains to be done.

We must engage our members so that they hold their governments and companies accountable for the promises they made during the conference.

The Paris agreement was necessary, but it is insufficient. The real good news is probably elsewhere: the labour movement left Paris stronger, and more convinced than ever of the need to demand a plan to decarbonise economies and secure jobs.

And even better news: Paris proved that trade unions are an integral part of a climate movement that is growing in intensity and diversity; a movement that will leave no one behind in this race against vested interests and time; a climate movement that will prevail.