On Saturday, in the most historic moment for climate action yet, 195 countries reached an agreement to stave off the worst effects of climate change. The agreement outlines commitments and actions that will lead to significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and investment in clean energy. The document included the critical goal of limiting global temperatures to well-under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a review process, and financial support for developing countries.
Preceding the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) are two decades of committed work from the faith community and other sectors of society. In addition, recent happenings served to highlight the importance of working to reduce climate change effects, including the proposed EPA Clean Power Plan; the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, and California’s recent legislative commitment to renewable energy with the passage of SB 350. All these actions and more helped make this historic agreement possible.
The impressive commitments made by large polluting countries could not have happened without global pressure from multiple sectors of society on governments to take the climate crisis seriously. The advocacy and support for climate action by faith community members in the world’s eighth largest economy and our nation’s most populous and diverse state made a profound difference.
Interfaith Power & Light had many representatives “on the ground” in Paris, including our network founder and president, Sally Bingham and executive director, Susan Stephenson. They delivered a presentation, along with Sr. Joan Brown of New Mexico IPL, that gave witness to the robust spiritual commitment, grassroots engagement and moral influence of the US faith community to addressing the climate crisis.
Going Forward: The Role of the California Faith Community
While there are many reasons to celebrate this agreement, the hard work of strengthening and implementing the accord now begins. For us in California, that means increasing our efforts to implement strong and equitable state and local policies that may serve as models for other states and nations. We must continue to amplify the voices and perspectives of faith communities, especially those most impacted by poor air quality, drought and extreme weather events. California state and federal policy makers need to hear from many more congregations and faith leaders about the importance of increasing renewable energy production, reducing pollution and protecting community health. Due to our heavy reliance on cars, California still produces more greenhouse gas emissions per person than almost anywhere else in the world despite being viewed by many as a climate champion. We must renew and enhance our efforts to get off of all fossil fuels as soon as possible, through increasing access to and the affordability of electric vehicles and expanding public transit options. Efforts to ban fracking and other extreme forms of oil and gas extraction need our support. We must end the export of coal from our coastline, and we most certainly must not allow a new, large facility for that purpose to be developed in Oakland. This historic agreement, indeed, inspires greater personal and collective commitment to caring for our common home.
In a press release issued by Interfaith Power & Light, Rev. Sally Bingham states, “The world witnessed a breakthrough in Paris today, with all countries acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind requiring immediate action…There is much work to do to reach this goal, and U.S. faith communities will continue to advocate for stronger action from our government and financing for the most vulnerable.”
CIPL staff, regional working groups and member congregations already have events planned for the year ahead that will increase our network’s impact and mobilize even more faith communities for climate justice and clean energy. In the mean time, we encourage you to read the 21-page agreement for yourself and bring the message to your communities.
Further links and opportunities for action:
**The 5 most important components of the Paris climate agreement – Mashable – 12.12.15 – major points of agreement and areas of much-needed action
**Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris – NY Times – 12.12.15 – good overview
**Blog of Sr. Joan Brown of New Mexico IPL
Previous Post: December 7:
Be part of the Action During and After the Climate Talks! Sign the Congregational and Individual Paris Pledge
The second week of UN climate negotiations have begun and Interfaith Power & Light is in the house! IPL’s President, The Rev. Sally Bingham, Executive Director, Susan Stephenson, and IPL New Mexico Executive Director Joan Brown will give a presentation on the role of U.S. faith communities in combating climate change and educating others to do the same.
Excellent pages from the faith point of view to keep up with during the talks:
**Sr. Joan Brown’s as she chronicles the highlights of the conference
**IPL’s tumblr page with posts by Rev. Bingham and others
**Texas IPL’s facebook page with experiences, including short videos that capture the significance of this event
**California Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus, a strong supporter of climate and energy policy and of CIPL. His Twitter handle is @bishopmarc.com.
Negotiators have their work cut out for them this week. A draft agreement, submitted last weekend, will be worked out as the week progresses. Though many of the same issues to be worked out exist as in previous years, the mood is reported to be more positive than in the past, especially in the Copenhagen talks of 2009. Issues that will most likely exist past this week are: funding for mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries; 2 degrees vs. 1.5 degrees Celsius limit by 2100; stringency of reporting measures for emissions reductions; and the role of fossil-fuel based countries.
There is great excitement around the legislative action taken in California. Governor Jerry Brown and other signers of the Under 2 MOU have taken the spotlight several times at the UN Climate Talks, serving as an example of strong, committed action. Understanding that significant emissions reductions is not an “all at once” event, Governor Brown stated that “…it’s day after day, fashioning and implementing actions.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, supporter of the Under 2 MOU initiative, and her commitment to strong climate and energy policies are excellent examples of how local state action can influence the climate talks and implementation of an agreement. Recent support for Oakland’s “No Coal” campaign from various sectors, including strong advocacy from the faith sector, has made news headlines. In a December 7 press release of mayors and governors’ support of strong action at COP21, Mayor Schaaf states, “We are excited to pursue our ambitious climate action goals, and support the the Under 2 MOU in alinging subnational governments around these commitments. Oakland proudly supports fellow governments in making and acieving tangible commitments, and to prove that success in meeting these goals is possible.”
Previous Post: November 30
Today (November, 30) the UN Climate Talks Conference of Parties 21 (COP 21), began outside Paris. The site of recent tragedy, from which the city and world are still recovering, the international community is standing together for a more sustainable and healthier world.
Check out the national IPL blog page, featuring stories directly from Climate Talks attendees.
California leadership will be front and center, offering proven examples of successful legislation and action, which has led to a decrease in carbon emissions while creating jobs. The role of the faith community will be highlighted as well, with Interfaith Power & Light’s President, The Rev. Sally Bingham and Executive Director, Susan Stephenson, making a presentation on faith action alongside Sr. Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico IPL. Follow their journey by clicking here.
As people of faith involved in and committed to responding to the threat of climate change, the following are notable companions in this historic journey over the next two weeks:
- A handy “guide” from Mother Jones about the what’s, why’s and who’s of the Climate Talks
- Ways for you and your house of worship to implement the principles of caring for Creation and to help avoid the worst effects of climate change provided by
- Read about the last dozen years of climate action from one Catholic’s perspective, CIPL staff member Allis Druffel, highlighting major events that got us to this point.
The UN Climate Talks are widely seen as a “good start but not enough.” 2016 will be a time for increased international action, strengthening action coming out of the talks from multiple sectors of society. CIPL and its state affiliate colleagues are already planning for “post-Paris” action, working to build upon the momentum garnered.
In solidarity, multiple rallies were held all over the globe, with advocates demanding successful action in Paris. The rallies, including those sponsored by state IPL’s, were especially significant in light of the fact that a massive mobilization rally in Paris was cancelled due to the recent attacks.
Check out an inspiring video from Minnesota IPL on their Climate Mobilization March November 28, and pictures from other nation-wide rallies below.
“COP21: Rallies call for Paris climate change action” – 11.29.15 – BBC News
“Tens of thousands protest around globe ahead of Paris climate talks” – 11.29.15 – AlJazeera America