Post-Paris: The Real Work Begins for Faith Leaders

A less reported aspect of the Paris Agreement was the involvement of faith leaders from around the world, which added a moral backdrop to the lively discussions. Now, a few months after the historic agreement was reached. Faith leaders pay a continued role in achieving climate solutions. As Justin Catanoso shared in his article for The Pulitzer Center, 'now the real work begins' for faith leaders.

In Paris, Catanoso met up with a number of these leaders, including Blessed Tomorrow Leader, Rev Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, an interfaith organization that empowers sustainable action in faith communities across America. Many have insisted that the Paris Agreement is weak, creating a duty for faith leaders to ensure that we follow through on the non-binding agreement. Moreover, people need a solution, not doom and gloom cautionary. Rev. Fletcher shared, "People need hope. Martin Luther King Jr., didn’t say, ‘I have a nightmare.’ He said, ‘I have a dream.’ That’s how we move people. That’s how we affect change.”

The Paris Climate Talks Ended in Elation—Now the Real Work Begins, Say Faith Leaders

Justin Catanoso  | Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

In May 1927, a fearless aviator named Charles Lindbergh circled his fragile single-engine monoplane, waiting for tens of thousands of expectant Parisians to clear the runway at Le Bourget Field. When he landed, completing his solo trans-Atlantic flight, the jubilant crowd erupted — it was a unifying moment of “can-do” optimism that electrified people around the globe.

Eighty-eight years later, on Dec. 12, 2015, history was made again at Le Bourget. Delegates from 196 nations, for the first time ever, agreed at the 21st United Nations Climate Summit to reduce their carbon emissions, wean the world economy off fossil fuels, and give the human race a shot at surviving the rapidly escalating dangers of global warming in the decades ahead.

Well over 10,000 people crowded the summit venue, and in a fashion similar to Lindbergh’s landing, they were stunned by the outcome, abuzz, euphoric. Despite gloomy predictions, history had been made. The Paris Agreement — though voluntary and still fuzzy on how goals will be reached and enforced — exceeded the expectations of many.

That bolt of optimism also passed through faith leaders onsite and around the world. They sensed their moment had arrived. As COP21 participants celebrated, I dashed into the media center and stopped the first person I recognized, Joe Ware, a spokesman for Christian Aid, a faith-based group in London dedicated to environmental protection. He was breathless.

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