COP25: Time for Action

Christina Manning from Tearfund in the UK writes about what needs to happen at COP25.

25 years. 25 years of talks. What action have we seen? Emissions are still rising, sharply in some cases. The action that countries have agreed to take (at some point in the abstract future) falls drastically short of what is urgently required. This year’s COP is aptly named: ‘Time for Action’. About time. 

I am being reminded through various challenging situations that our God is a God of the impossible. He can move mountains. Before I paint a bleak picture of the path the world is currently on, it’s important to remember this. Our God is victorious. He can and will make a way. He invites us to partner with Him in making all things new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I encourage you to pray bold prayers. To call on governments to take real, tangible action. To be passionate and persevering and persistent as you petition God and politicians. To see our world renewed and restored as we partner with God and others in the call for radical change. 

Paris and the NDCs

2020 is the deadline for all countries to review their national climate plans or NDC (nationally determined contribution) for mitigation (reducing emissions), adaptation and finance. It is crucial that these line up with – or go further than – the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement to peak emissions as soon as possible and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050. 

The Paris Agreement was agreed at COP21 in 2015, and aims to bring all nations together to take ambitious climate action and adapt to climate impacts, with further support to vulnerable countries to do the same. The central aim is to keep temperature rise this century well below 2°C – preferably to 1.5°C – from pre-industrial levels. At the heart of the Paris Agreement are the national climate plans, which communicate each country’s post-2020 climate actions.

COP25 will be instrumental in positioning politicians to make strong climate commitments in 2020, looking towards COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, UK, at the end of next year. At COP26 each country’s new climate targets will be assessed and committed. Countries need to show they are on track to deliver these new, ambitious climate targets. The world faces a climate emergency and all countries need to dramatically increase their efforts to cut emissions to avoid catastrophic climate damage. 

The state of things

  • Almost 75 percent of 184 Paris Agreement pledges were judged insufficient to slow climate change.
  • China & India, top emitters, will reduce emissions intensity, but their emissions will increase.
  • The U.S.A., the world’s second top emitter, has reversed key national policies to combat climate change.
  • Almost 70 percent of the pledges rely on unconfirmed funding from wealthy nations for their implementation.
  • You can use the Climate Action Tracker to see your country’s climate targets and what more they need to do to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Even if all current country targets were met the world would be on track for an average 3°C temperature rise by the end of the century. The effects of this do not bear thinking about. Average temperatures have risen by about 1°C since pre-industrial levels. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate change impacts including droughts, floods, more intense and frequent disasters, and sea-level rise. These impacts are harming people’s health, livelihoods and homes, and their access to food and clean water. The poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet are already being hit the hardest. To keep global warming to a safer level of 1.5°C the world’s current pace of cutting emissions must increase by fivefold. 

What can we do?

Don’t forget to pray! Jesus said:

‘Apart from me, you can do nothing,’ (John 15:5) and, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).

We can also continue to call on our governments to take faster and more ambitious action to reduce emissions, stop digging up fossil fuels, invest in renewable energy and prepare for the climate impacts that are inevitable. High-income countries should also give support to the most vulnerable countries to do the same. 

Our governments should have:

  • A clearly stated long term target to reduce emissions, compatible with a 1.5°C temperature rise. This should cover all sectors, including transport, power generation, buildings, industry, land use and agriculture, finance and economic development, and adaptation and resilience.
  • A transparent process for phasing out fossil fuel exploration, extraction and funding (including in export finance), and plans for a just transition. 

This can all seem easier said than done, but at this point of the debate we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

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