A World Without Climate Role Models — 5 Years After the Paris Agreement

Amanda Hanemaayer
Dec 16, 2020 · 3 min read
Taken in Innsbruck (left) and Mayrhofen (right), Austria — 2019

In a true embodiment of the ideal, democracy functions as a vessel for conveying the voices of its people, promoting tangible actions in counter of their grievances, rather than fortifying a pedestal for dominating kleptocrats and middlemen who perpetually demand further power. With mounting social movements in favour of urgent climate action and higher awareness amongst the general public of the daunting ramifications of apathy, it’s not surprising that democratic governments have shown empirically greater progress in their efforts for climate change mitigation.

The unfortunate counterpart of this reality, however — namely the existence of corruption in governance systems or the altogether absence of civil society representation — is potentially also a reason for the highly — and in some cases, critically — insufficient climate action amongst the world’s highest emitters, including Trump’s America.

In response to many commemorative and reflective discussions taking place to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, Greta Thunberg boldly accused national and international leaders of creating “distant hypothetical targets” and “new loopholes with empty words,” ultimately falling short of every uttered promise.

With no intention of completely nullifying the attempts at the progress that has been made, I agree with her remarks. While electoral politics is inherently geared toward alleviating immediate concerns, governments have an obligation to anticipate future adversity, especially perils so clearcut as the ramifications of climate change. We stand in a situation now where these consequences are already perceptible and worsening.

And yet, five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, there are no global role models on climate change action. Only Morocco and the Gambia are on track for meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius limit set forth in this agreement meant to hold nations accountable for their actions.

But the young activist was also correct to implore for our optimism and for a fervent, unbending commitment to making climate change mitigation and transitions toward a more sustainable global society our highest priority. All along, I have believed that the engagement of individuals and communities in the discussions concerning how to address the climate crisis will be imperative to ensure that appropriate action is actually taken in order to curb emissions and establish sustainable solutions moving forward.

Without awareness of the current and imposing ramifications of global warming continually incurred with our inaction, and the daunting facts held secret for many years that human action is to blame, any number of other misfortunes, more paramount at the moment, will claim the position of highest salience. Rapid transitions without the will to adopt greener technology and more sustainable solutions will inevitably feel like some form of loss.

But long, drawn-out problems — such as systemic racism, gender inequality, and, naturally, climate change — demand enduring commitments.

Often we complain about an absence in political will when we ourselves remain confined to past traditions and resistant to change. Governments will move forward with climate action more aggressively when we push them to do so. So engage in discussion with your climate change-denying father and choose to eat plant-based even when it annoys your friends; speak as loudly as you can and listen to your Mother.

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