As negotiations get underway in Paris at the COP21 climate change conference, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Professor Kevin Anderson gives his thoughts on what progress could be made over the next fortnight.
"If success is measured in relation to a binding agreement designed to keep global emissions within the carbon budget for a good chance of staying below a 2°C rise in temperature then I don’t think it will. Yet this is exactly what our leaders have repeatedly committed to deliver ever since they became signatories to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord.
"As it is today, we are heading for a weak agreement based on each nation’s ad hoc and voluntary proposals to cut emissions. Collectively these are more broadly consistent with a 3°C to 4°C future – the former if you believe the accompanying rhetoric the latter if you think each nation has painted their contribution in a very favourable light. Few nations, if any, are yet prepared to lead by example – there are lots of fine eloquent sentences uttered, but unpicking them reveals elaborate ruses to do little more than the least possible without losing face.
"However, the Paris negotiations have only just started – and all is still to play for. It is the role of those within civil society who are genuinely concerned about climate change to put increasing pressure on our policy makers to act with integrity and abide by their high-level commitments and promises. We are very likely to fail – but if cogent and vociferous voices are not heard failure is guaranteed.
"Either we radically reduce our carbon emissions in the short-term, or we fail and, in the medium-term, suffer the radical repercussions of very high levels of climate change. Whichever route we take the future is a radically different place from where we live today. We need to think differently. To question what we mean by “realistic”. To open up the constraints we place on what’s acceptable and to construct alternative sustainable, low carbon and prosperous futures – not ones that are simply “affordable” in today’s terms."