In 2015 at COP21 in Paris, an ambitious agreement made between 197 nations set out to tackle the existential issue of climate change. The Paris Agreement is hugely important because it’s the first global agreement to stop the earth getting warmer than the safe level of 1.5°C. Many Christians prayed and campaigned for it.
To do that the Agreement said we would reduce our emissions together, and eventually decarbonise completely. Richer countries repeated their promises to fund poorer countries to find clean ways to develop.
World leaders decided that each country would decide for themselves how quickly to reduce their emissions, and how they would do it. Similarly, each country would choose how much money to contribute towards the total amount of $100 billion a year by 2020.
Three Years Later
Three years on from the Paris agreement and we need to do even more in the light of the IPCC report. The paper highlighted that governments and individuals need to make large-scale changes to put the world on track to 1.5°C of global warming. Every single fraction of a degree will matter to reduce the devastation on people’s lives from floods, storms and droughts.
What will be decided at COP24?
Three important developments must take place. They are:
World leaders must step up action, accountability and ambition to agree fair, robust and transparent guidelines for each country’s national plan – so it’s clear what each country is planning and how well they’re doing.
None of this is going to be possible without the required funding. Paris repeated the promise for richer countries to provide poorer countries with US$100 billion every year by 2020 to support climate change mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (coping with the changing climate). Keeping this promise is very important in itself, and to build trust in the other promises too.
The world is completely off track, heading for warming of over 3 degrees. According to the UN Emissions Gap report,
commitments made by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent one-third of what we need to limit global warming to 1.5°C. So national country plans need to be updated and improved showing how each nation will get to net zero emissions. This is the point where they’ve cut the amount they emit from things like electricity and transport, and increase the amount of carbon dioxide they suck out of the atmosphere by things like forests and peatlands.
Yikes! That all sounds like it will be really hard to achieve!
‘…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ Matthew 17:20 NIV
It often feels like the challenge of climate change and keeping global warming to within 1.5 degrees is impossible. But, the Christian experience is that with faith, all things are possible. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says if we have faith the size of a mustard seed then we can do the impossible. That includes keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees.
This COP is a crucial COP. An ambitious deal in Katowice includes agreeing fair, robust and transparent rules to turn Paris into action, finance for developing countries to adapt and stronger commitments and national country plans by 2020. It may seem impossible to do, but with faith, it will be possible.