COP21 Paris from two different perspectives:
Firstly: Many say we have turned a corner on the central environmental challenge of our time. For the first time in history, the world is united to cut the carbon pollution that’s driving climate change by moving beyond the dirty fossil fuels of the past to the cleaner, smarter energy options that can power our future without imperilling the planet.
To do that, 195 countries – rich and poor, large and small and at every stage of development – have pledged to cut, cap or mitigate their carbon footprint. This sends a clear message to the markets: we’re moving to a low-carbon global economy where the future belongs to those who invest in ways to make our homes, cars and workplaces more efficient and to get more clean power from renewable sources like the wind and sun.
An ambitious agreement. As a whole it was pledged to hold down global warming to well below 2 degrees Centigrade, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels; and to work toward holding the increase to 1.5 degrees Centigrade, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. To date, average global temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees F.) above pre-industrial levels, with most of the warming coming in the past 50 years. Science tells us we must hold total warming below 2 degree C. to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Even at that level, though, coastal communities and island nations would be at risk of being drowned by rising seas. That’s why it’s important to hold the line at 1.5 degrees C.
The pledges made to date won’t get us where we need to go: at best they’ll take us roughly halfway to the 2 degree limit. But the agreement calls on nations to assess progress every two years and come back together five years from now to build on those gains by ratcheting up their ambitions and setting more assertive goals going forward - hopefully a formula for the continuous improvement needed to get the job done.
For the first time, countries must make an inventory of their major sources of carbon pollution and share that information with the rest of the world. Countries must also monitor carbon emissions, using standard measuring practices subject to expert international review and report regularly on the progress they are making in reducing those emissions. Hopefully sharing experiences and lessons learned will help all countries make progress and speed the shift to a low-carbon global economy worldwide. This is all about global progress, global transformation and global change and it will be played out over many decades.
Those of you who are into serious walking we’ll understand what Nelson Mandela once said, ‘You climb up one mountain, only to find more mountains ahead.’ A mountain has been climbed in Paris but there are indeed many more mountains to be negotiated.
There are issues of ‘compensation’ to be resolved, for example the Saudi’s among others are pressing for compensation because of the oil which is no longer needed. There is the issue of indigenous peoples rights and island nations’ rights. What will the impact of climate change be on refugees. Syria’s drought has long been driving people off the land. What can we do to buffer these effects on people, to slow down the impacts?
And Secondly - this is where another perspective comes in:
Martin Lukacs** wrote on 15th Dec. 2015 in The Guardian:
"Two certainties existed entering the Paris climate talks. They hold as true coming out. The first was that the world’s heads of state were not prepared to act as is necessary. The second is that it was never going to be up to them anyway.
The richest governments – politically captured by a fossil fuel-wedded corporate class – were hobbled from the outset. It was the movement being built by activists around the globe that shaped the best of the Paris agreement. And what was worst they were unable to prevent.
These movements’ growing power at home forced a tremendous promise abroad: an aspiration to keep the world to 1.5 degrees of warming, above which spells disaster for Indigenous peoples, low-lying island nations, and the African continent. The limits of their power meant everything shoddy about this agreement: that the US and others could choose their own emissions targets; wouldn’t be legally bound or on a strict timeline; and won’t pay poorest countries, who have done practically nothing to create the problem but now suffer practically everything, what is needed to adapt to climate change. And as the world hurtles toward 3 degrees of warming, they have been stripped even of the right to legally demand compensation.
The first task is to never let the richest governments forget their rhetoric. Did you say 1.5 degrees? Repeat it back to them as they return to licensing the mines, mega-dams, and monocultures that will render even their paltry emission targets impossible - and then back it up with action. The second is already underway: the transformation of the climate movement itself. As Paris was its witness, a fledgling climate justice movement is no longer fighting merely against the carbon in the atmosphere, but the political and economic system that first emitted it there."
I believe we need to listen to both these views, to be thankful that a start has been made but be always aware that not only do we need to play our own individual part but also to keep the momentum going, to hold our leaders and politicians to their pledges. I believe the greatest cause to be supported by prayer and if possible action in the coming months is that of Climate Justice and I will also be writing on this issue with news and resources.
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