One is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy. The other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action
- Bill McKibben is the Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, Vermont, and leader of the climate campaign group 350.org
So many things have broken the wrong way since the Paris climate accords were agreed in mid-December of 2015. Within eight weeks Donald Trump had won his first presidential primary, an insane comet streaking across the night sky, trailed by outliers like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. The world has endured opéra bouffe distractions like Brexit, and the true paralyzing emergency of the pandemic.
And yet here we are, staggering and stumbling towards the real follow-up to Paris, starting 31 October in Glasgow. The international order, such as it is, is held together with baling wire and duct tape: China (its housing market cratering) and the US (between rebellions) are spitting at each other, India half-lost in its ugly experiments with repression, Europe Merkelless. The global south is ever more rightly angered by the failure of the north to deliver on its necessary pledges for climate finance – and to pay for the increasingly obvious damage that global warming has inflicted on nations that did nothing to cause it. But somehow all these players must stitch together a plan for dramatically increasing the speed of a global transition off fossil fuel – and if they don’t, then Paris will forever be the high-water mark of climate action. (And the actual high-water mark of rising seas will jump upward.)