Last Saturday, after two intense weeks of negotiations, the United Nations adopted the Paris Agreement—a document meant to commit all the world’s nations to taking action against climate change. Yet the accord is striking for how much it doesn't do. It doesn't set binding targets for countries to reduce their emissions, nor does it commit developed countries to provide the money vulnerable communities sorely need. It does reflect, for the first time, a goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C, but does not specify how this will be achieved. I’m not surprised. After spending months studying the climate negotiations process, I expected the outcome of a system built on global consensus to lean towards preserving the status quo. And it has.
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon called it a “monumental triumph.” President Obama said, “I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.” Indeed, the world will surely remember December 12 as a historic day: the day humanity decided to save itself.
But in my eyes, history is made not in the signing of a single document. It's made in the determined labor of millions of people working towards a brighter future.
It's made on the sacred land of indigenous peoples, where people are fighting to protect their homes and cultures from petroleum companies seeking to profit from their destruction.