Dr. Margaret Flowers: COP21 Agreement is Not Enough; We Need to Stop Expanding the Fossil Fuel Economy

The United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) climate talks concluded this past weekend in Paris and, while it is remarkable that an agreement was reached by all 195 nations, the agreement is not a solution. The severity of the climate crisis and the pressure of the global climate justice movement forced the nations to reach consensus, but the final language is completely inadequate to address the crisis and provide financial support to those who need it.

The final treaty, which will replace the Kyoto Treaty when it expires in 2020, is non-binding; and thus, the inadequate commitments made by each nation are not mandatory. Current commitments to reduce Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) are too little, too late.

Though the stated goal of the Paris Treaty is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, the stated commitments won’t achieve that. And although previous drafts of the treaty called for phasing out fossil fuels in the second half of the century, the final draft excludes that language. Countries are also not required to cut emissions before the new treaty commences in 2020.

There is widespread agreement that globally we will have to keep 80% of the current fossil fuels in the ground to stay within our carbon budget, yet the US government is promoting the use of more methane gas, a very potent GHG, in the new so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP). Each time we build another carbon-based power plant or other carbon infrastructure project such as pipelines and compressor stations, we are locking ourselves into many more decades of fossil fuel use.  This is the opposite of what we as a nation should be doing.

Now that the Paris Treaty has concluded and we know where it stands, it is clear that it is up to us to work together to demand the changes that we require. These efforts are underway.

In the Northwest, the city of Portland recently passed a resolution banning the construction of new facilities to store or transport fossil fuels. Other cities in that region are working to do the same and to go farther than resolutions and pass laws that prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure. We can do the same in Maryland and nationally.

Across the United States, there has been a steady increase in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.  However, we need even more ambitious commitments, and we can make them. A Stanford University project called The Solutions Project outlines how each state in the nation can be carbon-free and nuclear-free. Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research - based in Takoma Park, Maryland - has written a book that outlines a roadmap to 100% renewables.

In Maryland, we will need to stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure while we push for renewable sources of energy that are clean. There are currently major projects underway in Maryland that are taking us in the wrong direction.

In Southern Maryland, Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy giant, is building a new gas refinery, power plant and export terminal that will send fracked gas to India and Japan. This project will drive more fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure which will worsen the climate crisis as well as threaten the health and safety of local communities. To join the fight to stop Dominion’s project, visit We Are Cove Point’s website.

In the Brandywine/Waldorf region of Prince Georges and Charles Counties, three new gas power plants and pipelines are being proposed. To make the situation worse, these are being proposed in communities that are majority black and already have poor air quality, which continues the state’s legacy of environmental racism. To join the fight to stop these projects, visit Energy Justice Network’s website.

And we need to make sure that proposed solutions are real solutions. In the Curtis Bay area of Baltimore, the O’Malley administration pushed forward a trash incinerator calling it a green power plant even though trash incinerators are dirtier than coal. The incinerator would be the largest one in the nation and would be built less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School.  This community, also majority black, already suffers from poor air quality and cannot tolerate the disease-causing toxins that would be released into the air by the incinerator. That community is fighting back. To join them, visit Stop the Incinerator.

These are examples of the struggles we face in Maryland that mirror national struggles to reach our goals of racial and climate justice. I will continue to participate in these struggles as a candidate, and if elected, I will continue to confront these challenges. I ask you to join these local fights and to support the Flowers for Senate campaign so we can make the necessary changes to build the clean energy future that will benefit all of us.

For more information:

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, COP21: An Opportunity For Climate Justice, If We Mobilize, December 13, 2015.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, COP21 Concludes: Thousands Draw Red Lines Throughout Paris, December 12, 2015.

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