COP22: No more time to waste.

21 Nov 2016

When COP21 finished in December 2015, France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius called it “a historic turning point” in the battle against climate change. Newspapers around the world acclaimed the Paris Agreement as a necessary step forward, albeit imperfect. With the closure of its follow up conference, COP22 (held in Marrakech from November 7-18), there is nowhere near the same level of media noise.

“COP22 was an almost perfunctory follow-up to COP21 and a legal examination of the commitments made last year. As expected, it served to confirm the terms of the Paris Agreement, but there is no big news to speak of, only details that must until 2018, the deadline for the Agreement’s entry into force. As such, the implementation process is still too long, and we don’t have time to waste, as global warming won’t wait for human negotiations,” said Luca Mercalli, noted Italian climatologist, president of the Italian Meteorological Society.

Climate change is a worldwide emergency and requires our full and immediate attention. Unfortunately, we must now play the waiting game, as the incoming administration in the United States is yet to make its intentions clear with regards to the Paris Agreement, though there is considerable fear that the country may withdraw unilaterally. Given that the United States is alone responsible for more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, this would render the whole agreement essentially worthless, as other major polluters like China and India would be more likely to follow the American example.

The disappointment of COP22 is that right now, when we need urgent action more than ever, it seems that world leaders are hesitating and reconsidering. The Paris Agreement sets out the need for $100 million of public spending before 2020 by the richest countries to combat greenhouse gas emissions, and even this figure is thought to be too low by climate experts. Yet at COP22, rather than increase their spending commitment, world leaders were not even able to guarantee that they would be able to meet the targets ratified by the Paris Agreement.

Even if the Paris Agreement is respected, it will almost certainly not be enough to save the planet. Two degrees of global warming would already be a catastrophe, and we are perhaps on course to see as much as six degrees this century. The scale of the disaster does not bear thinking about. Slow Food asks the signatories to the Paris Agreement to commit to keeping global warming under 1.5°C, and to get moving before 2020. Such commitments must take priority over all other trade agreements—we cannot afford to miss these targets.

The impression we take away from COP22 is that once again, the enormous impact of industrial agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions has been underestimated, if not completely ignored. Yet intensive animal farming is responsible for 14.5% of all emissions, more than all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles combined. The situation does not seem to be improving, either: the FAO claims that in the next 35 years the worldwide consumption of meat could double. A stronger position must be taken by the world’s richest countries, and acted upon immediately. Slow Food sustains that we can still save the planet, but only if we promote small-scale agriculture, end public subsidies for industrialized farming, and drastically reduce our consumption of meat.

Read the Slow Food position paper on the climate here.

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