Closing the climate talks, two 'rays of light'

What happens when a major world emitter steps away from the table?

The 23rd annual "Conference of Parties" (or COP23, in UN-speak) closed Friday with two key messages:


  1. The 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement (yes, that includes the United States, albeit quietly) remain committed to a collective framework on international climate action, and
  2. The international community still has yet to send a strong signal that it is committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels.
True, an alliance of 19 countries, headed by the UK and Canada, committed on Thursday to phase out coal production. (The Guardian, calling the move "a political watershed" in its headline, noted that electricity produced by coal in the UK has fallen from 40 percent to 2 percent since 2012).

But little progress was made defining specific emissions-cutting guidelines. Activists call for a "robust set of rules," but that rulebook remains woefully thin. (A U.S. talk about the necessity of fossil fuels sparked one of the conference's biggest protests. Our quick read: "Song, dance and protests at US energy talk." Ecowatch has a first-person account.)

The Center for International Environmental Law saw "two rays of light:" Governments agreed to integrate gender equality into climate action, and they committed to giving indigenous peoples equal footing in UN climate responses.

It is further sign that the climate talks are also becoming the way the global community addresses environmental and social justice.

"The decisions related to gender and indigenous peoples are welcome developments," said Sébastien Duyck, a senior attorney for CIEL. The climate talks, he said, are "where theory becomes practice, with real consequences for communities around the globe.

Plenty of end-of-session wrap-ups on the web, from the Associated Press, France24, Climate Home News, The New York Times and The Guardian (in pictures).

Print Friendly and PDF
SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
From our Newsroom

Our plastic planet

While climate change remains environmental issue #1, the worries over plastic in our water, soil, food, and bodies continue to grow.

Disinfection dangers: How to avoid viruses without exposing yourself to toxics

COVID-19 has all of us cleaning more—but the products designed to kill viruses and bacteria can have dangerous health impacts. Here's how to scrub safely.

Building a library of American environmental classics (Part Two)

More recommendations for your home eco-library.

Microplastics in farm soils: A growing concern

Researchers say that more microplastics pollution is getting into farm soil than oceans—and these tiny bits are showing up in our fruits, veggies, and bodies.

Cutting edge of science

An exclusive look at important research just over the horizon that promises to impact our health and the environment

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.