Five Years Later: The Paris Climate Accord

As the plague-haunted year of 2020 comes to a close, the Paris Climate Accord concludes its first five years…of ever-higher greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts. Greta Thunberg shared a video message about this sad anniversary:

Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg): At the #ClimateAmbitionSummit leaders celebrate their shameless loopholes, empty words, distant insufficient goals and  theft of present and future living conditions - calling it "ambition". There are no climate leaders. The only ones who can change this is you and me. Together.

The world’s best-known climate youth activist is joined by millions of her climate-aware brothers and sisters in the Fridays For Future movement as they march, plead and strike for the demand of limiting global temperature rise to 1Point5 (degrees Celsius), beyond which the continent of Africa will mostly become uninhabitable, among many other horrors.

As Ugandan organizer Vanessa Nakate wrote in the Independent:

Five years on from the Paris Agreement, people are asking me: “What has been achieved?” Privilege allows you to use this anniversary to reflect on achievements.

For me, the last five years of the climate crisis has not been a story of successes. In January 2019, I started a protest outside the Ugandan parliament. I was driven to act by what I was witnessing around me: people in my country losing their homes, their incomes and their lives to extreme weather.

Here in Oregon, we know all about people in our state losing homes, incomes and even lives to climate-exacerbated, out-of-control wildfires, as we also suffer from COVID and an economic recession. What we don’t know – yet! – is how to put together a tough-enough united front to achieve the major changes needed. Among them: stopping the widening of the I-5 freeway through a historically Black neighborhood; stopping the Jordan Cove LNG project which has been fought for 16 years; ending the sinister path of tar sands oil trains through Portland; moving away from an extractivist model for our forests; redirecting money into public transit and truly affordable housing; and building robust intersectional alliances. And more. We’re working on it, though.

The Extinction Rebellion movement started in the UK, partially in response to the Accord’s apparent lack of progress, as governments have failed to act on the greatest crisis facing humanity (and the planet) ever. The ferocious urgency expressed in the name and the dramatic direct actions of XR, combined with a focus on creativity and emotion, have made this new movement stand out from older environmental and climate groups, and grow exponentially into a global movement. But of course, the XR movement, like others, cannot affect these changes by ourselves.

As we stare into the defeats and missed opportunities of the past five years, there’s only one way forward: Take a deep breath and double down. We can’t have another five years like this.

Failure is not an option. Rebel for life!

About Janet Weil

Janet Weil is a writer and climate activist who works on the XRPDX media working group. She also serves on the Advisory Board of Ethics in Tech, and the Climate Crisis and Militarism working group of Veterans For Peace. A bird lover, Janet is inspired by the decades-long quest to bring back the California condor from the brink of extinction.

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