Looking Back at the Paris Agreement: A Ban on Fracking Was Never More Urgent

By Geert Decock

The Paris agreement on climate change is less than a week old, yet its contents have already been intensely analysed. Below, we want to share the top five analyses that we have read so far.

First key fact: The Paris agreement and the promises by 196 governments do not offer any guarantee that the world will limit global warming to a safe level: Even if all parties kept their promises, “the planet would warm by an estimated […] 3.5 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels. And that is way, way too much,” says Bill McKibben of 350.org in the New York Times.

The Paris agreement offers too little, too late. “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. […] In fairness, the failure does not belong to the Paris talks, but to the whole process. […] The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment,” says George Monbiot in The Guardian.

One of the main reasons why we remain deeply critical of the Paris agreement is one glaring omission in the text, as Food & Water Watch pointed out in its statement (also pointed out by Naomi Klein on her Twitter feed). How is it – after 21 years of climate summits – that we STILL cannot name the elephant in the room?

Also in The Guardian, Bill McKibben of 350.org echoed Food & Water Watch’s statement that the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground also extends to unconventional oil and gas resources, especially to fracking for shale gas: “You’ve got to stop fracking right away (in fact, that may be the greatest imperative of all, since methane gas does its climate damage so fast). You have to start installing solar panels and windmills at a breakneck pace – and all over the world”.

To end on a slightly less critical, more positive note, the inclusion in Article 2 (1) a of the Paris Agreement of a commitment to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” also endorses the views expressed in our Global Frackdown to Paris letter to world leaders that climate science demands a rapid transition to zero-carbon energy resources, i.e. renewables and energy efficiency. Any talk of a relying on so-called “transition fuels” like fossil gas or allowing the extraction of high-carbon shale gas with its associated high level of fugitive methane emissions is simply not credible. As Professor Robert W. Howarth puts it in recent publication: “Given the imperative of also reducing methane emissions to slow global warming over the coming few decades… the only path forward is to reduce the use of all fossil fuels as quickly as possible. There is no bridge fuel, and switching from coal to shale gas is accelerating rather than slowing global warming”.

This is the hard truth and there are no two ways about it. First item of business: Ban Fracking Now!

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