MUCH of the media coverage of the Paris climate agreement at the weekend called it a historic moment.

I suppose in many ways what was agreed was historic. After all, the only previous UN agreement on climate change was the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed over 18 years ago. Remember that one? Yes, the one which the USA wouldn’t even sign up to.

This new global deal on climate change is definitely not perfect but then, no-one really expected it to be. When you have nearly 200 countries negotiating, and complex layers of international diplomacy to weave around, it’s in many ways impressive that any kind of agreement at all has been reached.

Loading article content

There is no doubt that the Paris deal provides an international framework for the growing global climate movement to hold politicians to account for what has been promised.

All 196 countries, including key players such as India, China and the USA, agreed to limit any rise in global temperatures to no more than 2°C and to aim towards 1.5°C. This commitment is welcome, but what matters is how countries will deliver this.

It’s relatively easy to agree to “aim towards” something, much more difficult to make it happen. Currently what countries have actually pledged to do in terms of reducing their national emissions doesn’t add up to anywhere near the 1.5° or even 2° limit. So there is a significant gap to be bridged. Sound familiar?

Back in 2009, the Scottish Parliament unanimously supported strong climate targets and a fair and robust framework on how those targets should be met. But the inescapable truth is that nowhere near enough policy effort has come forward to achieve these goals.

Just six months after the Paris climate deal, the Scottish elections next year are an ideal platform for our political parties to set out credible plans to reduce our country’s emissions. More North Sea oil and gas and an ever-expanding road network frankly won’t cut it.

Over the last few years, tens of thousands of people across Scotland called for more climate action. They are concerned about this issue and want more done about it. On the eve of the Paris talks, they came out in their thousands at our fantastic Scotland’s Climate March event as part of a global movement coming together on this global issue.

What we need now is for this momentum to continue, to grow, and to push our political representatives to live up to their promises. The next Scottish Government simply cannot do more of the same and continue to miss the emissions targets set by our Parliament. We need bold new policies.

And the current UK Government? Clearly there is a long way to go for their climate commitments to remain at all credible. Cutting subsidy from a flourishing renewables industry while continuing to subsidise other high-carbon forms of energy is making a mockery of their claims to be the “greenest government ever”.

Across the world we need low-carbon solutions that will create a new, green economy, with better air quality, fewer chemicals on our crops, quieter and safer roads, comfortable and efficient public transport and warm homes.

Becoming low carbon is something to embrace, not fear. We also need to continue to financially support people in the world’s poorest countries who are suffering from the effects of rising global temperatures.

Folk can often get caught up in the moment at UN conferences, thinking it’s the be-all and end-all. I think we need to put this into context. The climate fight didn’t begin a fortnight ago. It is one that campaigners have been pushing for decade after decade. Like many of the greatest challenges humanity has faced – abolishing slavery, anti-apartheid, women’s rights – these fights are not won in a matter of years. But it seems to me that right now we could be opening the finishing chapters of this long fight against the old, dirty world of fossil fuels. I think, in the years to come, we will look back on this moment as a pivotal point in the fight for climate justice.

After the Paris agreement was ratified, South African Minister Edna Molewa summed up the challenge for all of us with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb… I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Truly, we have reached the summit of one small hill, but our long walk is far from over.

Gail Wilson is campaigns manager at Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, which had a delegation at the UN climate talks in Paris over the past fortnight. You can follow them on Twitter at @sccscot