We will defeat climate change – through cooperation

This week, on Earth Day, more than 150 countries sign a global agreement to protect our environment – the Paris Climate Agreement – at the first opportunity, a record turnout for an international agreement. This is an encouraging sign. After many years of foot dragging, the world is finally coming together to confront climate change, the most urgent issue of our time.

Earth seen from Space. Apollo 8 Mission, 1969. © NASA

We are seeing agreement to take action to prevent a climate catastrophe only after many years of hard work. Above all, it is thanks to people all over the world standing up for action. Before the Paris climate summit an estimated 800,000 people marched for a safer climate. The countries most vulnerable to climate change stood together and demanded warming be limited to 1.5 degrees C compared to pre-industrial times – the threshold we must not exceed if many countries in the Pacific and other poorer developing countries are to survive. Progressive businesses, meanwhile, showed that a 100% renewable future is possible, by committing to go 100% renewable themselves.

This combined pressure resulted in an agreement that is a clear signal that the age of fossil fuels is ending. An agreement that makes staying within 1.5 degrees C warming the benchmark against which all decisions by governments and corporations must be based from now on.

COP21 Earth Balloon Action in Paris. 28 Nov 2015 © Micha Patault / Greenpeace

We believe that it is cooperation and solidarity above all that we now need to deliver on the promise of Paris: a safer world, where people share resources rather than fight over them. Paris needs to be the beginning of a fair transition to a world powered by 100% renewable energy. The ground has been laid for real action. Renewable energy, for example, accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. But we still have a long way to go.  

As the new Executive Directors of Greenpeace International, we want to drive a revolution in how humanity interacts with nature. And we believe we need a revolution not just in technology but in attitudes and lifestyles.

Greenpeace International Executive Directors Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDiarmid. 14 Apr, 2016 © Bas Beentjes / Greenpeace

We know that we, collectively, have all the tools, the ability and the knowledge we need to build a sustainable world. We know, because our people all over the world are campaigning to make a just economy respecting the reality of environmental limits. We are working hard to further reduce coal consumption in China, we are fighting to save the Amazon rainforest for its peoples and to protect the Arctic, our vital global refrigerator. We know that in a warming world, we need an urgent shift to ecological agriculture and Ocean Sanctuaries so that life in our oceans can recover from the stresses of higher temperatures, overfishing and pollution.

Underwater Banner, Menorca. 28 May, 2006 © Greenpeace / Gavin Newman

The reason solutions are not adopted fast enough is because of those few who benefit from the destructive status quo. There are still too many powerful people and corporations who benefit from the despoilation of our global commons. It is time to end this destruction for private gain, fromfishing fleets exploiting the vanishing Arctic ice to European companies supporting the destruction of the Amazon.  And increasingly people are no longer satisfied with governments simply saying they will do something about a problem, they are standing up in growing numbers to make sure governments deliver on their word.

'Fish For Life' March in Thailand. 28 Sep, 2012 © Christopher Allbritton / Greenpeace

Now is the time to show that we can share the world more equitably, and deliver a decent life for all. It is time for the vision of humanity being part of nature – of cooperating to save the beauty of the planet we depend on is – that we get out of bed for every morning to lead Greenpeace.

It’s also why we feel it’s important that we at Greenpeace – who vigorously hold polluters to account – show that a more cooperative approach works. We are the first Executive Directors of Greenpeace Internationl to share this post. We do so not just because it is nice to divide the work load and learn from each other, but because we want to show that cooperation brings real benefits. If we – the two of us –  bring out the best in each other, we get a better organisation. If we – all of us – can bring out the best in humanity, we get a better world.

Munduruku Child in the Amazon Rainforest. 1 Mar, 2016 © Valdemir Cunha / Greenpeace

So we welcome that this week the world is coming together, to say: “we will fix the climate emergency.” We are truly encouraged by this, for once, global response to a global problem.

And, together with all of you, we look forward to ensuring that this is indeed a beginning of something new. The beginning of a renewable era, built on trust and cooperation.

Together, we can ensure that the businesses and investors who continue to put greed before the interests of people and our planet find themselves on the wrong side of history. Together, we can show a better way, with less selfishness and more community

We hope you will join us on this journey – and that we may meet as we go on it together over the coming years.

Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDiarmid are the Executive Directors of Greenpeace International.

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