Photo by Megan Nourse

The final hours of climate change negotiations in Paris are looming. Having wrapped up Thursday night’s session at 6 am Friday morning, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has conceded that the final text will not be released Friday evening has he hoped, but rather Saturday morning. This means another late night for global negotiators to reach a deal that will keep global warming well below 2°C.

The release of the negotiation text Saturday is certainly not the end to climate change negotiations, but rather just the beginning of the world’s latest last-ditch attempt to begin decarbonizing and protecting its most vulnerable citizens.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed, which was supposed to mitigate and prevent further climate change through the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. “I hope things are different. They have to be. We just burned 20 years, we don’t have another 20 years to lose,” said NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen. 

Though the European Union managed to exceed their reduction commitment, Canada and the US (two of the world’s bigger polluters) gave up on the targets completely. The Paris agreement is the developed world’s chance to get it right. In fact, it may be their last chance.

The negotiations in Paris need to result in an agreement that increases each country’s ambitions towards decarbonization every year, with a five-year interval of checking in and serious pressure placed on countries to ramp up efforts. What happens in Paris is a start, but each party must continue to review and update their targets based on emerging climate science.

“If we don’t have this, if we have nothing, then we are completely screwed. We go into runaway global warming, and I don’t know that the human civilization will survive,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May on the importance of the Paris negotiations.

The doom-and-gloom of climate change possibilities is out in full force as pressure mounts on negotiating parties.

“Whatever agreement we get our of here today from these parties, it’s not going to be enough,” said May Boeve, executive director of at a panel on divestment. The work of the world’s last shot at preventing warming that will likely cause the inundation of island nations like Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands does not stop in Paris, it’s just beginning.

COP21 has been about catching up for Canada. The last decade under the Harper government was one of blocking and sabotaging negotiations, but we were not necessarily environment leaders before that.

“Canada up to this point, since almost the beginning of these meetings 20 years ago, has over-promised and under delivered,” Cullen said.

The Trudeau government, to its credit, has shown up to the negotiating table and again is making big promises. However, the work that still needs to be done in the months and years following COP21 will show whether Trudeau’s speeches at the start of negotiations were sincere.

As the eyes of the world focus on Paris as delegates work to achieve a final agreement between the negotiating parties, we should begin to look ahead. Paris is certainly not the end of the climate change road, it holds the potential to be the beginning of the end of climate change.   

Megan is A\J's editorial manager, a lover of journalism, and graduate of the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. 


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