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COP21 Concludes: Thousands Draw Red Lines Throughout Paris

Above photo from; thousands of activists spelled out the words Climate Justice Peace using geocaching and gatherin in specific locations across Paris.

Lots of Self-Congratulations; James Hansen: “fraud . . .fake . . . bullshit.”

Beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era? Message to business and government, stop investing in fossil fuels.

Paris, France – On the final day of the COP21 meetings in Paris, thousands of people took to the streets to display the urgent need for climate justice. Red lines made with umbrellas, cloth, banners and roses emphasized the point that action is needed now to confront the climate crisis.

Redline protest 12-12-15 Source
Redline protest 12-12-15 Source

The climate agreement was announced and while there was a lot of self congratulations at reaching an agreement and many big greens applauded the result, climate scientist James Hansen gave the bottom line. The Guardian reports: “It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2º C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

Hansen describes a crisis-level urgency saying that “More than half of the cities of the world are at risk.”  He describes the economic costs of the climate crisis as incalculable.There will be hundreds of millions of climate refugees, and he predicts global governance breaking down.

Hansen describes US leadership as failed, saying he had high hopes for Obama but “He didn’t make it a priority and now it’s too late for him.” He describes the Republicans as playing to climate denialism even though he believes they know the climate crisis is real. He believes they need the funding of the fossil fuel industry so they ignore the science. He sees the great hope for dealing with the reality of climate science as coming from China saying they “will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the US” … “because China is rational” with their leaders trained in engineering and sciences.

Angels holding redline with System Change Not Climate Change in background. Source
Angels holding redline with System Change Not Climate Change in background. Source

As to what is in the text and public, the Guardian summarizes:


  • an aim of keeping temperatures below 1.5º C, a much tougher ambition than the 2º C that nearly 200 governments agreed to for the first time six years ago
  • a 5 year review of how countries are doing on their climate plans, with the first happening in 2023
  • ‘loss and damage’, a mechanism for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate impacts such as extreme weather. The language is such that the US should be happy: it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”
  • a request for countries to revisit their national climate plans in 2018, before they come into effect post-2020


  • A clear timescale of when fossil fuels must be phased out in the second half of the century. The previous draft said parties would work “towards reaching greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century”. This one doesn’t.

    Climate State of Emergency, Redline protest 12-12-15 Source
    Climate State of Emergency, Redline protest 12-12-15 Source

The head of the International Emissions Trading Association, Dick Forrister, seemed pleased with the results, emphasizing what many see as the fundamental problem — dependence on the market and corporate interests instead of real solutions to address the crisis. Forrister said “We’re pleased to see the proposed agreement could enhance cooperation through market approaches. It includes strong accounting principles to ensure market integrity.” Market solutions have failed to mitigate the crisis.

Bill McKibben also emphasized the power of the industry in his reaction:

“Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”

COP21 No Peace without Climate JusticeWhile there was no enforcement of the goals set by the agreements, inadequate promises made by countries coming into the negotiations and inadequate funding for developing nations to cope with the climate crisis, a common reaction to the agreement by climate activists is that this is the end of the fossil fuel era — or at least, the beginning of the end. If the goals of the agreement are to be taken seriously, most of carbon-based fuels will need to be left in the ground.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said the long term goal was “transformational” and “sends signals into the heart of the markets.”  She described the signal to investors and business as “the world was on an irreversible and irrevocable downward trend in emissions.” Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research echoed this message saying “the agreement as a whole sends a strong message to businesses, investors, and citizens that new energy is clean and fossil fuels belong to the past. There is a lot of work ahead of us to make this happen.”

Leave it in the ground Source FLICKR
Leave it in the ground Source FLICKR

This agreement should make the concerns of investors in traditional energy sources very nervous because the risk of dollars invested in fossil fuels not having a return on investment is already happening and will quickly worsen with this agreement. When investors face this reality, big energy is going to find itself unable to raise funds for projects. And, governments should realize that building carbon infrastrucutre no longer makes sense and is a bad use of tax dollars when the people of the Earth need to be creating an entirely new, clean, sustainable — carbon-gas free — energy system.

For this agreement to become reality it will require people to mobilize and escalate their demands for climate justice. The status quo business interests will fight to protect their profits so people power will be the essential factor that determines how quickly the world faces up to the climate crisis. Whether this agreement is a turning point toward climate justice depends on us.

The protest in Paris was illegal in violation of the ban on protests put out by the French government. As you can see from the video below. There was a large police presence but they did not take any action to stop the protest.

Below are scenes from Paris today:

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