Paris climate talks could be a turning point


Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

During the next two weeks, we could see an important turning point in global efforts to address the causes and effects of climate change. From November 30 through December 11, delegates from 195 countries will meet outside Paris, France, and, for the first time in more than 20 years, attempt to create a legally binding agreement to address climate change.

In the year leading up to the Paris talks, many countries have made pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal to keep the rise in the average global temperature below two degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels). Earlier this year, President Obama pledged to cut U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025.

Wealthy countries have also made pledges ahead of the conference to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with the goal of helping lower-income communities affected by climate change. The GCF would provide grants and loans for both mitigation to address the current impacts of climate change and adaptation to help communities adapt to the new reality with more renewable sources of energy, more drought-resistant farming practices and the like.

Thus far, countries have pledged more than $10 billion to the GCF (the U.S. has pledged $3 billion). One thing advocates will be watching in Paris is whether efforts such as the GCF are transparent and fully include input from the communities they seek to help.

If an agreement is reached in Paris, it would go into effect in 2020 and would be reviewed every five years to determine if goals are being met—and to encourage parties to adopt even more ambitious reduction goals.

Why is an agreement so important? Because many communities around the world are already experiencing increased drought, more frequent natural disasters and other harmful impacts of climate change. In turn, these impacts are leading to conflict, migration, the increased spread of disease and worsening poverty.

“May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field” (Psalm 72:16). We are richly blessed with abundance in the beautiful world God created. If we nurture and treasure this amazing gift, it will continue to provide abundantly for many generations to come.

Pray for the talks in Paris to be fruitful, to lift up the voices of the marginalized, and to lead to real progress to address both the causes and effects of climate change. Pray also for safe travels and meetings. And, be sure to add your name to the Faith Climate Petition calling on U.S. policymakers to help create a more sustainable world for both current and future generations.