Written by By Sophia Poirier, CNN Paris
Paris, France — How do you change the world? On this year’s penultimate day of the COP 26, a meeting of the world’s climate negotiators in which 2,500 experts are looking to reach an agreement on global climate change, one word — “millennium” — changed the course of history.
The phrase — which was translated as “Paris Agreement of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as applicable” in both the official 2017 text of the agreement and the decisions made on Saturday — had all been envisioned by environment minister Nicolas Hulot, one of the first individuals to use his office to speak out against climate change in 2017.
A clean-up operation. Credit: Pierre/Flickr
It was an action he took in response to messages of discontent from activists, scientists and many others around the world who opposed and rejected a disproportionately progressive section of the agreement.
The provision in question requires countries to achieve a net zero emissions by the second half of the century, in defiance of national parliaments that are already debating and struggling to amend their obligations.
The dangerous fiction of “net zero emissions” is a science fiction fantasy where climate change is reversed, according to the 1.5 gigatons of carbon that experts say is needed to keep the planet under a 2 degree centigrade temperature rise.
And it is this language which saw Hulot and French environment minister Nicolas Hulot threaten to walk out of the conference if no action was taken to remove it from the document.
The threat proved enough to see radical change — including its replacement with a “pragmatic scenario” that retains “the ambition to make significant progress toward net zero emissions” by midcentury.
French President Emmanuel Macron made a surprise appearance at the COP 26 to meet with world leaders to discuss the shocking situation in Northern California in the wake of the Camp Fire. Credit: Pierre/Flickr
According to the newly agreed-upon language, the objective “can be achieved by taking effective measures to limit the increase in global average temperature in the second half of the century to well below 2 degrees Centigrade and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Centigrade.”
The new document also mentions opportunities to transition away from fossil fuels more quickly than current national pledges, while urging countries to continue to cut emissions as much as possible.
For the environmental movement at large, the pledge was something of a victory.