Sustainability Blog

We’ll Always Have Paris: The Fifth Anniversary of the Paris Agreement

By Apurva Gosalia - Nov 04, 2021

Casablanca” is the most quotable film in U.S. cinema history, according to 1,500 film artists, critics and historians who voted for the top 100 film quotes to mark the American Film Institute’s centennial. 

The list included not one but six snippets of dialog from the 1942 classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. One of these quotes is said by Bogart to Bergman as the film draws to a close: “We’ll always have Paris.”

In those few words, Bogart’s character Rick recalls a cherished memory of the couple’s former romance and evokes another one of the movie’s themes – self-sacrifice for the higher cause of winning the war. 

Now there is an even higher cause and a greater existential threat – to halt manmade climate change by meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on Nov. 4, 2016, exactly five years ago today.

The agreement became a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 197 parties – after re-entry of the United States – at the COP21 summit in Paris on Dec. 12, 2015. I think this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 C, above pre-industrial levels. The way to achieve this, the wisdom goes, is to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.

What makes the agreement unique is that for the first time all nations have a common cause to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. This is done through five-year cycles of increasingly ambitious climate actions carried out on the country level. By the end of the first cycle, countries were supposed to have submitted their action plans, known as nationally determined contributions, by 2020. They were delayed until this year because of the pandemic.

Climate change action needs to be ramped up as much and quickly as possible to achieve the agreement’s goals. In the years since it became enforceable, low-carbon solutions and new markets have sprung up, more and more countries, regions, cities and companies are establishing carbon neutrality targets and zero-carbon solutions are becoming competitive across various economic sectors.

At the G20 summit in Rome last weekend, the heads of state declared their commitments to the Paris Agreement and said they would cooperate to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

They faced criticism that they had “failed to meet the moment” before COP26, where high expectations for concrete measures have now risen again. Greenpeace condemned their statement for being weak and unspecific, saying it is “lacking ambition and vision.”

When we round up the usual suspects of country heads who did not attend the G20, it is no surprise that China, Russia, Japan and Mexico were not there.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, COP26 takes place this week in Glasgow, where the Scottish Gin Festival was celebrated a month ago. The French have a saying: “It is the fate of glass to break.” Let us hope that Glasgow doesn’t break.

So, here’s looking at you, Glasgow, to see what transpires, because as time goes by, we’ll always have the Paris Agreement.

(Yes indeed, all the six film quotes from “Casablanca” have been hidden in this blog. Can you find them?)


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