10 Myths about the Paris Agreement

By Samantha Montano, M.S. 

As you read this list please keep in mind that an agreement written by representatives of fossil fuel economies was never going to produce a document that underscores industry. While none of this is surprising, you should be severely alarmed that so many media sources, environmental groups, and politicians have praised the agreement when every single scientist and anyone that can do basic math understands that this is nothing but a show.

1. We have a legally binding agreement!

No. This is NOT a legally binding agreement (despite what some news outlets have been reporting). These are VOLUNTARY PLEDGES. Each country came up with a list of things that they were committed to doing to help stem climate change.

“We support an agreement that’s legally binding in many respects,” said Todd Stern, the special envoy who leads U.S. negotiations, “including the elements of accountability of the agreement, the requirement to put forward a target, to do it with information that clarifies it, the obligation to report and be reviewed on your inventories and the actions you’re taking in order to meet your target. Any number of rules and so forth—so a whole number of elements that are legally binding, but not the target itself.” (Source)

It could have been though… If the United States had said, “You know what y’all, let’s make a legally binding agreement”, we would have a legally binding agreement. When Obama went to Paris he said, apologetically, that he couldn’t promise a legally binding agreement (source). Why? because it would have had to go through Congress. Which means that 5 Republican Senators and 27 Representatives are the reason that the world does not have a legally binding agreement…. 32 human beings are holding the rest of the world hostage by preventing climate change intervention. THIS is why not voting matters. THIS is why, if you care about climate change, voting for democrats, even when they’re not perfect is important.

 

2. The end of climate change is here!

No. It took 21 years of international meetings to get us to Paris. There seems to be little evolution since the Copenhagen Conference in 2009. Oh, also, the agreement doesn’t start until 2020… i.e. for the next 4 years countries can burn baby burn…

 

3. We’re going to keep it under 2 degrees!

No. The pledges do NOT add up to keeping it under 2. AND by the time we reach 2020 it’s likely that the lowest estimate of warming would be between 2.7 and 3.7. 

 

4. Industries that contribute to climate change are doomed!

No. The agreement completely omits aviation and shipping industries, animal agriculture, palm oil industry, which combined are some of the biggest contributors to climate change. There is nothing about stopping or even slowing deforestation. Nor does the agreement give legal precedence over TPP or other trade agreements that would “give corporations the power to overturn environmental regulations that affect their profits.”

 

5. This is the end of the fossil fuel industry!

No. The agreement does not use the words “fossil fuel”, “coal”, “oil”, or “gas” which means that there is nothing in there about keeping fossil fuels in the ground… which means it’s not actually promoting the renewable energy industry. 

 

6. SCIENCE!

No. Nothing in the agreement is based on the current science of climate change. It also does not allow for frequent enough updating based on scientific breakthroughs that will undoubtedly occur over the next 4 years. (This is why the aforementioned scientists are all mad). 

 

7. The age of renewable energy is upon us!

No. “Renewable Energy” only appears once in the entire document… this is a problem because it leaves the door open for fossil fuel adjacent technologies to be implemented rather than technologies we KNOW are safe and renewable.

 

8. Developed nations are going to be held responsible!

No. The agreement fails to hold developed nations liable for climate change related damages in developing countries. The agreement promises $100 billion (though this bit is definitely not legally binding) which is no where near enough. By 2020 $4,000 billion is needed to cut emissions alone (see: International Energy Agency). The Paris Agreement commits to $100 billion for emission cuts AND adaptation….. $100 billion is less than 15% of what’s needed… yeah, lolz.

Oh also, that $100 billion that may or may not actually come to fruition will include loans, private finance, and reallocation of current aid budgets…. because we really want to fuck everyone over.

Oh, one more thing. Funding increases won’t be considered again until 2025.

 

9. It accounts for human rights, gender equality, and the protection of vulnerable people!

No. Not only does it not hold developed countries responsible but it also does not take the rights of Indigenous people, women, and other groups of vulnerable people into account anywhere in the agreement. It's widely accepted that climate change will have disproportionate impacts on these groups. 

 

10. Okay, well it’s at least a starting point!

No. The argument that this is a starting point justifies an unacceptable international response. It took 21 years for them to come up with this so let’s lose the inflated egos. This agreement should see warming between 2.7 and 3.7. This is not a starting point but a nail in the coffin. This does not inspire anyone to "get to work" it inspires people, environmental groups, corporations, and government to think they can get away with a bare minimum. 

The failure of this document was intentional. It is not bound by a legal framework. It has no realistic possibility of being implemented. Instead of calling out our politicians for allowing industry to control their actions our media has accepted the government’s declaration of success. Instead of questioning why the sentencing of the fossil fuel industry was left up to the fossil fuel industry, we have accepted the half-truth, if not malicious lies from government and media. Instead of questioning why developed countries were allowed to lead the agreement, making under the table deal to pressure developing countries into signing, we are praising them. 

 

 

More Info: 

Stole much of the information above from here and here.  

And if anyone is also a climate nerd and wants to read the actual agreement