Regardless of the technical details and absence of sanctioned enforcement controls, the recently concluded Paris talks on global climate mark a noteworthy achievement — a historic milestone that deserves being understood, avidly supported and celebrated.
First, according to all attending, the session gained unprecedented legitimacy among national representatives who agreed that the climate is a major problem and humanity must give high priority to getting it under control. The agreement for reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) was signed by nations producing more than 99 percent of those heat-trapping emissions.
Second, the negotiations established a global framework for tracking and recalibrating the GHG reductions at intervals of no more than five years through midcentury. If targeted increments of reduction are missed, renewed negotiations will be conducted as needed. Moreover, essential subsidies for speeding the transformation to clean-energy technologies were adopted, boosting the already healthy pace of private-sector investment.
Perhaps most importantly, there was unanimous agreement that the era of fossil fuels must end, ideally by 2050. This realization will help restrict or prevent irresponsible investments and dangerous expansion of carbon- and methane-emitting activities that must be curtailed to prevent the worst impacts of global overheating: rising sea level, massive extinctions, flooding, drought, crop losses, wildfires and the destruction of marine ecosystems that are vital to human food supplies.
The U.N.-sponsored Paris climate talks, known as COP21, will produce lasting benefits for responsible use and conservation of the Earth while revitalizing our shared sense of responsibility as consumers, workers and voters. Naysayers and politically cynical opportunists cannot suppress or subvert the vision and resolve that are the legacy of COP21.
We urge our members, supporters and fellow Georgians to join in celebrating this achievement as we resolve to do our part by working diligently to implement and enhance the framework for progress that’s been set forth. There’s much to be done in the next 35 years and no time to waste.
Kyler is executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a nonprofit organization based on St. Simons whose mission is to advocate responsible decisions that sustain coastal Georgia’s environment and quality of life. Go to www.facebook.com/Center-for-a-Sustainable-Coast-141003446180 for more information.