In a historic, albeit, unexpected show of support, nearly 200 delegates reached an agreement to collectively reduce carbon emissions in Paris this weekend. Most notably, the COP21 Paris agreement demonstrated an unprecedented level of concern and inclusion of developing countries (granted there could have been more). While some have been quick to point out the flaws in the agreement, it is important to keep these changes in perspective of historical context and overall growth. Climate change is not something that will be fixed overnight, but the climate agreement in Paris is a monumental step in the right direction.
The Paris Agreement, as it stands, will take steps toward diminishing dependency on fossil fuels and reducing global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius before 2100. To do this, the agreement:
- Put into place an enhanced transparency system for all countries
- Requires countries to report on greenhouse gas inventories
- Requires countries to report on mitigation progress
- Establishes a technical review process with agreed upon standard
The obvious loophole is the uncertain regulations and legally binding structure of this agreement, but considering the involvement of most countries to reduce carbon emissions by an even greater percentage than initially proposed, it is likely that both developed and developing countries are serious about change.
This statement is not intended to sidestep the issue of a check of balance. On the contrary, it is a call to action. Without clearly defined legal obligation, people of faith have an even greater role to play in the coming years. As Pope Francis shared on Sunday, in his praise over the 'historic' agreement, "Putting [the Paris agreement] into practice will need a concerted commitment and generous dedication on the part of all."
Every five years, beginning in 2020, the Conference of the Parties will convene to display the progress their country has made in curbing their reliance on fossil fuels. It is our role as faith leaders to ensure that these actions are taken. Apart from writing your local representatives and voting for candidates who align with climate solutions, what can you (and your congregation) do?
- Don't stop talking about climate change. It's tempting to sit back and enjoy this historic move toward a solution, but we need to ensure that the agreement does, in fact, become a solution.
- Make internal changes to your existing creation care plan or create one if you haven't already. It is imperative that our move forward is cohesive, and that our actions mirror the concerns of the Paris agreement.
- Unify your voice with other congregations. In the world of climate works, 2015 saw an incredible number of congregations and faith groups working together in creating a path to positive future.
- Transition your existing infrastructure. There are plenty of organizations that will assist in revamping your faith facility to meet the sustainable requirements necessary to see real change come from the Paris agreement. Check out Greenfaith and Interfaith Power and Light to get started.
- Divest/Invest. Many congregations across American have moved to divest their holdings away from fossil fuel companies, transitioning billions of dollars toward clean energy. Join the movement today with our friends Divest/Invest.
- Join Blessed Tomorrow. By signing up with Blessed Tomorrow, you are instantly connected to other people of faith who care for creation and gain access to materials that will assist you in becoming a climate champion.
By enacting these changes, people of faith may better define the still abstract parameters of the Paris agreement. 2020 may seem far-off, but it will come faster than you think. Let's strengthen our efforts even further in 2016, and keep this momentum going!
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