The official view: all eyes are on Paris, where negotiators will meet in December for a climate conference that will be described as “the most important diplomatic gathering ever” and “a last chance for humanity.” Heads of state will jet in, tense closed-door meetings will be held, newspapers will report that negotiations are near a breaking point, and at the last minute some kind of agreement will emerge, hailed as “a start for serious action”.
The actual story: what happens at Paris will be, at best, one small part of the climate story, one more skirmish in the long, hard-fought road to climate sanity. What comes before and after will count more. And to the extent Paris matters, its success will depend not on the character of our leaders but on how much a resurgent climate movement has softened up the fossil fuel industry, and how much pressure the politicians feel to deliver something.
The good news is, that pressure is growing. In fact, that relentless climate movement is starting to win big, unprecedented victories around the world, victories which are quickly reshaping the consensus view – including among investors – about how fast a clean energy future could come. It’s a movement grounded in the streets and reaching for the photovoltaic rooftops, and its thinking can be easily summarised in a mantra: Fossil freeze. Solar thaw. Keep it in the ground.
Triumph is not certain – in fact, as the steadily rising toll of floods and droughts and melting glaciers makes clear, major losses are guaranteed. But for the first time in the quarter-century since global warming became a major public issue the advantage in this struggle has begun to tilt away from the Exxons and the BPs and towards the ragtag and spread-out fossil fuel resistance, which is led by indigenous people, young people, people breathing the impossible air in front-line communities. The fight won’t wait for Paris – the fight is on every day, and on every continent.