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Cautious optimism among Climate Conference leaders

04 December 2015

by Joe Ware in Paris


Light show: the climate summit in Paris prompted outdoor expressions of solidarity, among them a projection on the National Assembly building by the French artist JR

Light show: the climate summit in Paris prompted outdoor expressions of solidarity, among them a projection on the National Assembly building by the F...

WORLD leaders opened the UN Climate Conference in Paris with powerful calls for collaboration as negotiators work on a deal to tackle global warming and its associated impacts.

In defiance of the recent terrorist attacks, more than 150 leaders made the visit to speak about their hopes for the summit. “What greater rejection for those who would tear down our world then marshalling our best efforts to save it,” President Obama said in his address.

He went on: “Let there be no doubt. The next generation is watching what we do.”

People from all generations took to the streets over the weekend, in capitals around the world, to make that very point. More than three-quarters of a million marched in 175 different countries, including more than 50,000 in London, Britain’s largest ever climate march.

This year’s summit, part of the annual sequence of gatherings, has greater significance because it is here that nations have promised to strike a global climate agreement that will change the trajectory of rising temperatures. This year is set to be the hottest ever recorded, beating the previous record set last year.

Besides reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, countries will also outline the support they will offer vulnerable countries to adapt, and insurance to nations suffering from impacts that cannot be adapted to.

The 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP 21, has so far been conducted in a positive and constructive spirit, which bodes well for the second week of fraught negotiations as Friday’s deadline looms.

Unlike the failed Copenhagen summit of 2009, the Paris deal has been made up of national country actions-plans. The sum of these currently puts the world on track for a rise in global temperatures of 2.7°C, and so negotiators are working on an “ambition acceleration mechanism” to ratchet up these actions every five years. Crucially this time, the world’s two biggest emitters, the United States and China, are working together to achieve an agreement.

A significant intervention earlier in the week was the declaration by the Climate Vulnerable Forum — 20 countries most at risk and already starting to feel the affects of rising temperatures. Rather than limiting the average global temperature rise to the agreed 2° above pre-industrial levels, these countries called for action to limit it to 1.5°.

This was a sentiment echoed by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Bishop of Polynesia, the Most Revd Winston Halapua, who is based in Fiji. He said: “The point I make is that, yes, we (here in the Pacific) are the first ones to go. But the others who think they will be OK — they’re kidding themselves. They will not be OK. Because we love the world, and because we love you, we are saying: alter your way of life.”

As its response, the African Union announced on Tuesday that it would be building ten gigawatts of clean, renewable energy by 2020, and would mobilise 300 gigawatts by 2030. To put that in context, that is double the output of all 150 gigawatts of the continent’s current energy production.

In the UK, Churches were united in calling for a strong and credible deal in Paris that would accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon world. A statement from the Baptist Union, Methodist Church, and Church of Scotland welcomed the Government’s recent announcement to phase out coal-burning in the UK by 2025.

It warned, however, that “it is essential that the UK does not simply replace coal with increased reliance on gas. Our Churches have called for the Government to ensure that 60 per cent of our electricity generation comes from renewable sources by 2030.”

The Church in Wales echoed this, and urged negotiators to deliver a robust outcome from the Paris talks. “This is what the Christian gospel is about — reaching across human divisions, to love our neighbour, so that the whole creation can glorify God.”


Joe Ware is part of the Christian Aid communications team

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