Beyond Ambivalence: Forward from Paris


The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was finalized and shared with the public last week (much to the apparent celebration of many, ambivalence of some, and criticism of others). The very fact that there is such an agreement is clearly a necessary step for our global conversation about climate change, adaptation, and resilience. And of course, with any agreement of such global scope (even if unenforceable), compromises soften the emphasis, slow the pace, and lower the overall targets–far from the immediate, paradigm shifting agreement hoped for and advocated for by many.

The Agreement has been criticized, too, for being heavy on rhetoric and light on binding action.

There are a lot of details supporting the main emphasis of the agreement, but there are two parts of the Paris Agreement I find surprisingly thoughtful and full of hope.

The first is Article 7, Paragraph 5:

Parties acknowledge that [climate] adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.

The second is Article 12:

Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.

Article 7 recommends a decision making process vastly different from the one we are engaged in here in the U.S.: an inclusive, “participatory and fully transparent” process that acknowledges the complexities of climate issues and their roots in a combined system of social, economic, and ecological practice.

Article 12, in its entirely, is dedicated to a participatory education process and demonstrating the vital role played by individuals and the diverse communities affected by climate change–and not simply those largely responsible for it.

This may well be rhetoric, sure, but as words are our principal means to communicate, then maybe we can at least take solace in language that supports collaboration, engages diversity, and sets communities on a path toward greater resilience.

Acting on these words?

Well, that’s up to us.



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