Results of the global climate summit

Take-aways from COP24

maldives island sinking

The Maldives is sinking. Like several other South Asian and Oceanic archipelagos, the Maldives’s topography suffers from a lethal combination of high surface erosion and rising sea levels. Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, expressed his deep disappointment about the COP24.

The nations of the world agreed on many of the tricky parts of the Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’, including how governments will measure, report on and verify their emissions-cutting efforts. This provides standards and makes it harder for countries to wriggle out of their commitments.

What wasn’t hammered out was how countries will step up their targets on cutting emissions.

Compromise = Everyone Unhappy

The latest climate report pointed to the urgency of keeping the planet to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) of warming compared to the pre-industrial baseline. The COP24 negotiations agreed on an action plan that predicts 3C warming, if the pledges are implemented. Scientists say a 3C increase would be disastrous, resulting in droughts, floods, sea level rises and the decline of agricultural productivity. In this respect, COP24 was an enormous failure.

The poorest and most vulnerable countries came out feeling that too little is expected of industrialized countries. On top of that, developing countries agreed to standardized reporting, which is odious when insufficiently funded.

One positive outcome was that the richest countries must be more transparent about financial support for those most affected by global warming.

The results could have been worse. Before exploring a couple other take-aways and a silver lining, let me offer a ‘meta’ reflection.


Reductive, linear thinking is a significant root cause behind the warming of the planet and that mode of viewing the world dominated COP24. The dominant, patriarchal, extractive worldview that has reigned over these past 150 years, or some might claim for the past 10,000 years since we developed agriculture, lacks the awareness of an interconnected world. This blind spot has prevented us from understanding nature and from understanding ourselves as an organism that emerges from nature. With economic systems that accumulate wealth and power to a minority along with fossil fuels to turbo-charge our misguided approaches, we have wrecked havoc on the planet.

While it is admirable that all nations come together for COP negotiations, the growth-oriented, nature-as-resource mentality that brought us to the point of planetary crisis is not even part of the conversation. Only Indigenous Peoples and civil society participants are sounding the alarm and introducing traditional and new narratives founded in different worldviews, values and economic approaches. Yet these voices are mostly unheard. The following two quotes represent just two of such myriad perspectives:

“If we were to grasp the true nature of nature–if we could comprehend the real meaning of evolution–then we would envision a world in which every living plant, insect, and animal species is changing at every instant, in response to every other living plant, insect, and animal.”
(Michael Crichton, author)

“Nature is a fluid entity that changes from moment to moment. Man is unable to grasp the essence of something because the true form of nature leaves nowhere to be grasped. People become perplexed when bound by theories that try to freeze a fluid nature….
“Behind every cause lies countless other causes. Any attempt to trace these back to their sources only leads one further away from an understanding of the true cause….
“Nature has neither beginning nor end, before nor after, cause nor effect. Causality does not exist.”  (Masanobu Fukuoka, Japanese farmer and author of The One Straw Revolution)

These ‘other-worlds-are-possible’ voices, which reverberate with cultural wisdom, are where I believe the hope lies. I have faith in the capacity for humans to shift–to think and behave in new ways. I also have tremendous faith in the love, goodness and beauty of life…including humans.

Other take-aways and silver lining

A few countries are leading the way and making dramatic shifts in their energy sectors and economies. For developing countries, while the will may be there, often they have insufficient financial means or outside support to implement deep changes.

For its part, the United States has its head in the sand, which created a leadership vacuum at COP24. To fill this gap, China, the planet’s largest carbon polluter, stepped up its leadership during negotiations.

While the US federal government is denying the existence of climate change, many U.S. states and municipalities are stepping up to the challenge and are devising ambitious goals around emissions. To achieve these goals, they will need your support and vigilance. Each one of us also needs to do all we can to reduce our personal emissions. CREDO outlines how to do this with 10 Tips to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint.

Honestly, it is hard to find a silver lining, but here is one.

Multilaterialism survived this latest global summit. Despite the U.S. administration’s disregard for multilateral negotiations and rules-based systems, it was still possible to forge a global consensus on contentious issues.

“You have the first economy and second largest emitter saying I’m stepping out and [yet] we’re still here,” Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said of the U.S. role. “If [the system] resists that, good job.”

What happens next?

The world has its work cut out for it, because while emissions had stabilized up until the end of 2016, both 2017 (1.6% increase) and 2018 (projected 2% increase) have seen greater global emissions. Alas, we are still largely fueling our production and consumption habits with coal, oil and gas.

The UN will meet again next year in Chile for COP25 with the goal of agreeing on the final elements of the Paris rulebook and to begin work on future emissions targets.

As we have only about a decade to halve carbon emissions to stabilize the climate, the crunch conference will come in 2020. This is when countries must meet the deadline for their current emissions commitments and produce new targets for 2030 and beyond.

In the meantime, let us look deep inside ourselves and to the wisdom and perspectives of others for the hope, strength, values, and mindset to co-create a world permeated by love and awareness of our interconnectedness.

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If you wish to read more on COP24, here is a good article from The Guardian and one from Politico.


IPCC report according to your region

GRIST has saved you the trouble of reading the whole report, and they’ve outlined the impacts of climate change on 10 different regions.