(Editor's note: Lucky us — we have a Hoosier correspondent in Paris for the climate change talks that are now underway. Lauren Kastner is on the Board of Directors of Earth Charter Indiana in 2015 and is a national youth leader with the Sierra Student Coalition.)
I have been waiting my whole life to write that headline.
No, really. I was born in 1991 and world leaders have been negotiating a real climate agreement since 1992 when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was first formed. Since then, the world has experienced the ten hottest years in recordable history, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting and glaciers have receded in most parts of the world, and carbon dioxide is at an unprecedented level in our atmosphere.
Today, after 24 hours of overtime deliberations at COP21, negotiators from more than 180 countries voted to adopt the Paris Agreement, a climate accord that requires all nations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. By signing this agreement, countries have committed to review their emissions reduction commitments every five years, at which time countries will scale up national commitments to keep global average temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Photo by Lauren Kastner
Through this agreement, developed nations must go even further to help developing nations and vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change by providing resources through adaptation finance mechanisms. The hard work must now begin to create resilient communities in all corners of the globe.
The agreement definitely has its shortcomings. For example, it lacks a specific timetable for the world to end the use of fossil fuels and lacks oversight and accountability for nations to deliver on their commitments. In coming years, the world must go even further to help those who have already experienced loss and damage such as displacement by the impacts of climate change.
While the deal could have gone much further to ensure promises are fulfilled and that solutions are based in equity and justice, the Paris Agreement will put us on a path toward increased action. The agreement alone will not save the planet, but it has saved our chance of saving the planet and taken collectively, it will do more than individual nations could accomplish on their own.
At home in the United States, we must capitalize on this historic deal. We will need to continue to lead by supporting stronger policies that speed the just transition to a clean energy economy, recognize our responsibility for existing climate impacts, and ensure that Paris is just one moment in a future full of opportunities to be on the right side of history.
And finally, a word on the global climate movement.
That the Paris Agreement is as strong as it is, is testament to the growing numbers of people from all walks of life - the young, faith leaders, frontline elders, workers and scientists - who are driving grassroots climate action in their communities and finding solutions where governments have failed.
A quote from Dr. Cornel West has been floating through environmental circles this week in Paris; “justice is what love looks like in public.” In my time in the global climate movement, I’ve always found people who are full of love, compassion, intellect, and courage. The Paris agreement marks the beginning and not the end of the work that must be done to fix the climate crisis and the climate movement is only growing stronger.