After the Paris Agreement

Canadians prayed for 296 consecutive hours during Paris climate negotiations. Concerned kids, parents, musicians, scientists, grandmothers, ministers, national churches, and friends, all across Canada (and beyond!) participated. Each focused an hour of their energy towards those marginalized by both the causes of and solutions to climate change, and those making high-level decisions about how climate change will be addressed.

With the prayerful support of citizens around the world, leaders from 195 countries have crafted the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is guided by principles of equity and responsibility, based on the ability of each country. It recognizes that least developed countries and small island states are the most at risk from the impacts of and responses to climate change. Because economic development has been tied to growth in emissions, developed countries therefore have a historical responsibility to lead the way.

Countries who sign-on to the agreement will try to limit warming to “well below” 2°C (compared to pre-industrial levels), to help each other adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to give financial support to developing nations implementing the agreement.

The Paris Agreement could have done more. CPJ had hoped it would call for:

  • a stronger limit on warming (to 1.5 °C, which would protect small island countries)
  • developed countries to be held legally responsible for historical emissions (which linger in the atmosphere, still contributing to climate change)
  • inclusion of Indigenous rights in the body of the Agreement (they were mentioned only in the preamble)

But regardless of legalities, the Paris Agreement has signaled that urgent GHG emissions reductions are needed. And, that developing countries and indigenous peoples need more support than they’re getting—immediately–to prevent and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Paris Agreement is indeed historic. However, climate justice won’t be achieved by brave words in a legal document, but by how countries courageously flesh out and expand upon this document.  And so now the responsibility for climate action comes home to Canadians.

How will we move the Paris Agreement forward in our own nation?

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to meet with premiers within 90 days of the Paris negotiations (by mid-March) to begin constructing a Canadian framework for climate action with the provinces and territories. He has also promised to work with indigenous and municipal leaders who are acting on climate change.

CPJ will be following the work of the Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change closely in the new year. We will seek opportunities to provide input and encouragement.

We will also continue to work with colleagues in faith communities and environmental networks to help define what Canada needs to do to turn Paris promises into concrete action.

Together we can—and must—put our weight behind the Paris Agreement to push our government to take responsibility for historical emissions and actively protect the rights of indigenous and marginalized people.

Countries can sign on to the Paris Agreement as of April 22 –Earth Day– 2016. Canada must be ready to announce an ambitious plan for climate action that will help achieve climate justice.

And so together, we continue to pray and work for climate justice.

About the author

  • Miriam meandered over to Ottawa from Edmonton, Alberta, where she recently completed her B.Sc. in Environmental Studies at the King’s University with a concentration in biology and a passion for public justice. As an academic urbanite reflecting on society’s place in creation (and vice versa), Miriam’s research has ranged to include statistical analyses on the survivorship of endangered seedlings, the construction of interactive applets to communicate grade five level chemistry, an exploration of Sabbath as the solution to the ecological crisis, an evaluation of the externalities of gasoline consumption in Canada, an evaluation of youth policy and programming in Alberta, and participation in the founding of an intentional Christian community on Alberta Avenue in Edmonton. Miriam continues to find herself overwhelmed by the mysterious threads of grace that knit all existence together in shared meaning. Motivated by the conviction that human creatures should be more faithful citizens of ecological communities, she wants to see a union of environmental and social justice woven into the fabric of responsible public policy in Canada.

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