In Paris, just say ‘no’ to COP21

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Climate negotiations resume soon in Paris. John Foran argues that the best outcome of COP21 may be no agreement at all.

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by John Foran

John Foran is a member of System Change Not Climate Change and of the Climate Justice Project at the International Institute of Climate Action and Theory.

In the long-running medieval soap opera Game of Thrones, they say that “when you play the game of thrones, you win … or you die. There is no middle ground” (season 1, episode 7 bears this title).

In the long-running contemporary soap opera At the COP, the same maxim holds true, it seems to me. “When you are dealing with the risks posed by climate change, you must play to win … or people will die.”

This is why the global climate justice movement and its allies everywhere must pay attention to the COP21 meetings coming in December to Paris. And we will need to be very imaginative indeed to defeat our enemies – the largest corporations in the world, the global political elite, and the systems whose levers they believe they control: capitalism, the world energy supply, the mass media, and a largely-rigged brand of democracy that systematically excludes radical challengers.

The global climate justice movement must inevitably confront the looming nightmare of COP21 in Paris in a few short months, and live with its outcome long after that. Paris will attract large numbers of climate activists, concerned citizens, good, bad, and indifferent NGOs, young people, old people, journalists and communicators of every stripe. While few in the climate justice movement expect much of the fatally flawed and compromised climate negotiations that are supposed to finalize a “treaty” of some kind in Paris, it is a place where a good part of the world’s attention will be turned, and thus presents opportunities for increasing the momentum and strength of our beautiful movements.

Paris will also likely be the site of intense narrative and political contention over the value and outcome of the negotiations, since world leaders, especially from the global North, will be seeking to …  continue reading on