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

A toxic travelogue

The first four stops on a tour tracing American history through its pollution.

Breast cancer: Hundreds of chemicals identified as potential risk factors

Researchers find nearly 300 chemicals linked to breast cancer-contributing hormones in everyday products, and call for a renewed focus on women's exposure risks.

My island does not want to be resilient. We want a reclamation.

Unlearning academic jargon to understand and amplify beauty and power in Puerto Rico.

Measuring Houston’s environmental injustice from space

Satellites show communities of color are far more exposed to pollution in Houston, offering a potential new way to close data gaps and tackle disparities.

Fractured: The body burden of living near fracking

EHN.org scientific investigation finds western Pennsylvania families near fracking are exposed to harmful chemicals, and regulations fail to protect communities' mental, physical, and social health.

The real story behind PFAS and Congress’ effort to clean up contamination: Op-ed

Former EPA official Jim Jones sets the record straight on 'the forever chemical' as lawmakers take up the PFAS Action Act

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.