COP21: A global promise, but actions will reveal true intentions

In this Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, photo, the Eiffel Tower lights up with the slogan"Action Now"referring to the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The carbon footprint for the COP21 conference runs to thousands of tons, for the some 40,000 people, including heads of state, negotiators, activists and journalists, in Paris to hash out a ground-breaking international agreement to put a brake on global warming. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
In this Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, photo, the Eiffel Tower lights up with the slogan”Action Now”referring to the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The carbon footprint for the COP21 conference runs to thousands of tons, for the some 40,000 people, including heads of state, negotiators, activists and journalists, in Paris to hash out a ground-breaking international agreement to put a brake on global warming. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The Paris Climate Conference (COP21) concluded with a global consensus on combating climate change and a commitment to reduce carbon emissions from the heavy use of fossil fuels. There were cheers when high-level officials from more than 190 countries finally agreed to hold global temperature rise to a target limit of 1.5C degrees. Now we pray that commitments by each of the nations will be kept in the years and decades ahead.

There was much more that came out of the two weeks of international discussions that took place in Paris and this 21st Conference of Parties since the first one in 1995.

As we noted in a previous post, another crucial issue besides setting a limit to global temperature rise is the creation of a global Green Fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change while improving their social and economic conditions.

To echo Pope Francis, those who are most responsible for the climate crisis must pay their ecological debt towards those least responsible.

Catholic Rural Life was not able to travel to Paris and take part in civil society discussions as we have done in the past for such crucial global gatherings. But we closely followed other Catholic groups and interested parties who were able to attend. So when it came to a Catholic voice on social and environmental justice concerns, we relied on Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE (an international alliance of Catholic development agencies).

These two international groups sent a joint delegation to Paris and focused on how the world’s poorest communities would be fully considered in the discussions and final agreements. Their press release provides an assessment – including some positive outcomes but also some disappointing shortcomings – of what was achieved in Paris.

Bill Patenaude at CatholicEcology.net also posted this blog about the Caritas/CIDSE assessment.

 

Our main concern: Agriculture and Food Security

According to reports from Caritas & CIDSE, there was a lack of a reference to food security in the final draft deal. As climate impacts continue to damage or limit agricultural production in various parts of the world, particularly across Africa, how will the world respond beyond emergency food aid? Catholic Rural Life will continue to stay engaged in efforts to reduce food insecurity through more sustainable and resilient agricultural practices in the developing world.

For instance, we agree with the assessment of Trocaire, a development agency established by the Bishops of Ireland as a way for Irish people to support the most vulnerable people in the developing world. Eamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire, had this to say:

“We are disappointed that provisions to ensure food security are not present in the core agreement, while language on production remains. We must remember … the real threat to food production systems is from the impacts of climate change. More food is not the same as less hunger. Hunger must be addressed by supporting local solutions and resources which this draft agreement can help to deliver.”

 

Much yet to happen

The Paris agreement, while a success in bringing nations together and demonstrating that agreements for action can happen, is no guarantee of transformational actions. Without careful accountability, “business as usual” may overtake the promised actions and continue to threaten those who are most vulnerable. We would have liked to have seen more attention given to food security, agriculture and rural areas where climate change will hurt those who remain nearly invisible from the better-off people of the world.

Despite the inadequate text of the Paris agreement, Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE say they are heartened by the unprecedented demonstration of solidarity from the climate justice movement throughout 2015. The task now is to shift our focus to holding politicians accountable for their responsibilities under the new agreement.

As Caritas and CIDSE state in hope and conviction: “There is a strong appetite from people of all walks of life for political action on climate change. The movement for climate justice is a growing one, which will continue beyond Paris.”