It’s that time of year again when hope is in the air. The nights are getting lighter, sunlight can be felt on our skin for the first time in months, and those who believe in love can go to overpriced restaurants to watch doe-eyed couples try to eat sea bass one-handed whilst holding the hand of the one they love.
The first flush of a new relationship is easy. It’s all fireworks and chemistry. But what’s the secret of keeping a long term relationship fresh? What are the issues after 26 years? And, in this modern age, how does it work when there’s more than two of you in the relationship? We all know that one extra can cause complications, but what if there’s more than one? How much more complicated does it get with 43 partners? How about 195?
It’s the 26th anniversary this year of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The relationship seems to be going well. But, as eyes turn to the 2020 targets, is the bond about to be tested?
To see whether it’s got what it takes to last, let’s go back to when it all began:
Rio de Janeiro, 1992
‘Rhythm is a dancer’ blares across a crowded dancefloor as eyes meet. Something is there, they’re starting to recognise it, but will they admit it? They are pushed closer together in the crush. The chemistry is apparent, but is it the real thing? They take the risk. They need to see where this can go. An agreement is made to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous interference with the climate. (This is more romantic than it sounds).
The first date goes well. Over a stein of beer they realise that what they have isn’t a one-time only thing. They want to keep this going. The first joint measures in international climate action are agreed. As they part temporarily, an oompah cover of ‘Things can only get better’ fills the beer hall.
It’s starting to get serious. What they’ve had so far has been great but they want to take things to the next level. Will they agree on what that looks like? They go out for sushi to discuss their future. It’s time to put things on a more committed footing. Some emissions targets are set, binding them under international law. They give each other the keys to their flats. Not everyone supports this progression of the relationship. Friends and relatives say they’re moving much too fast, some distance themselves altogether. But the desire is undeniable and it goes ahead.
Rhianna sings ‘Umbrella’ from the radio as the rain hits the windows of their shared flat. They’ve fallen into a routine. It can’t be fireworks and champagne every year. Dull decisions have to be made about what technology they need and what it’s all going to cost. It’s getting complicated. And lots of diplomacy is needed. But they’re basically still happy.
They’ve hit a rough patch. When they decided to take their relationship to the next level at that sushi restaurant all those years ago, they hadn’t quite bargained for what it might mean. Now they’re actually expecting things of each other, it feels too hard. Over the years, shared international actions have lapsed into weak political statements. Treaties are “taken note of but not adopted”. Jordan and Peter Andre have just separated. If they couldn’t make it work then what hope is there for anyone else? But they can’t just walk away after coming so far. A final effort is made. A delicious meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Problems in the relationship are acknowledged over wine. Nobody’s sure exactly what the future holds but there is a desire to keep it going. Let’s just see, shall we?
In the city of love the spark is reignited. Adele has made a comeback with ‘Hello’ and the mood feels right. They watch the sunset from the roof of the Pompidou Centre with a glass of champagne. They agree to make more effort with each other. Ambitious targets are back on the table. They’ll take the bins out more often. They’ll endeavour to get on better with the in-laws. And they’ll limit warming to well below two degrees whilst pursuing efforts to limit it below 1.5 degrees. The future is looking much brighter. They clink glasses.
Things are still fine. Although routine has crept back in over the past three years, they admit it’s a good routine. But 2020 is looming and the pressure is on again to meet targets. The last time they were approaching such a year, things got rocky. They don’t want to fall into the same trap as last time. Plus the outside world is changing. It’s harder and harder to be in this kind of relationship. People just don’t think it’s normal anymore. Now, more than ever, they need to be there for each another. Can they do it?
2018 is a critical year for laying the groundwork to meet the world’s 2020 carbon targets. Katowice takes place in November and will be the first real opportunity since Paris for the international community to raise ambition on climate action. The UK government’s diplomacy was at the heart of making things work in Paris. This year it needs to do the same again.
Like any relationship worth nurturing, if things get rough, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to keeping it going with fellow signatories of the Paris Agreement and continue to #showthelove.