AS NATIONAL representatives gathered for the closing hours of the UN Climate Conference, hopes were still high that a strong deal could be agreed to speed up the transition to a low-carbon world.
Representatives of 200 countries have spent the past two weeks in the Parisian suburb Le Bourget, negotiating an agreement on a reduction on greenhouse-gas emissions, and seeking to outline practical and financial support for communities suffering from climate change.
Although most past meetings have overrun, and delegates have worked into the early hours, the French presidency overseeing the talks has been clear that it wants a deal to be signed before tonight’s deadline.
Church voices at the summit have been regularly making the point, more strongly than ever, that climate change is now a moral and ethical issue as much as a scientific and economic one.
The Archbishop of Uppsala, in the Church of Sweden, Dr Antje Jackelén, said: “What’s the role of faith leaders in all of this? This is about moral and ethical choices. This is about values and lifestyle. It is about the role of human beings in nature and creation.”
It was about leadership, she said. “Religious leaders in many respects have the power to influence agendas, at all levels of society. It’s about climate justice. Whose voices do we hear? We need to hear these voices and make them heard. Religions stand together for climate justice.”
Over the past year, nations have been submitting their action plans, which set out their commitments to reducing climate pollution and providing help for poor countries to develop in a clean and sustainable manner.
The UN Development Programme has estimated that these pledges add up to limiting global-temperature rise to between 2.7 and 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This may be better than the level of more than 5° which the world is heading for, but it is still above the 2° of global warming which, scientists warn, will lead to dangerous climate change.
Negotiators in Paris are, therefore, working to include a ratchet mechanism that will require countries to review and resubmit their plans every five years, so that they don’t lock in “low ambition”.
Christian Aid’s senior climate adviser, Mohamed Adow, said: “This would make the Paris deal not just revolutionary but also evolutionary. It would mean it evolves to keep pace with the falling costs of renewable energy and other changes in the geopolitical landscape. A lot can happen between now and 2019, when the first review should take place. Countries will likely be in a position to do more then than they are today.”
Churches around the UK are already looking to see what they can do locally. The Church in Wales is asking congregations to conduct an audit on their environmental impact and outline what measures they already have in place.
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, said: “Climate change matters to us as Christians as we are stewards of God’s Creation, and also because we have a duty to help people in poverty. Governments need to give a strong lead on climate change, but that needs to go hand in hand with the steps that all of us have a duty to take as individuals to reconsider our lifestyles.”
The Christian charity A Rocha is also relaunching its Eco Churches initiative to encourage a range of measures to reduce churches’ carbon footprint.