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Called To Act - April 27, 2016

World Leaders Sign the Paris Agreement

“Our planet can not be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong.”  -(U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon) On April 22nd  representatives of 175 nations came to the United Nations to sign the Paris Agreement into worldwide law. This was a record breaking one-day signing of a worldwide agreement.

What is the Paris Agreement? 

This past December an agreement was negotiated at a Climate Change Summit in Paris. The purpose of the agreement is to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on a global level.

The planet is heating up: the first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century. We are already experiencing climate change impacts: heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, flooding and violent storms. The Paris Agreement was framed by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change at the COP21 (the 21st Conference of the Parties). The goals of the Paris Agreement include adjusting greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperatures below a 2⁰ C increase, strengthening countries’ resources in order to manage a changing climate, improving the recovery efforts for nations impacted by climate change and providing financial support to developing nations for sustainable infrastructure.

The UN signing ceremony on Earth Day is an important step in turning the words of the Paris Agreement into actions. However there is a difference between signing the agreement and ratifying it. The actions discussed in the agreement will not take effect until 30 days after 55 countries begin the ratification process. While 175 world leaders signed the agreement, only 15 have started the ratification process. Most of the 15 nations that have started the process are small island nations, which typically are the first to feel the impacts of a warming planet.

In opening the U.N. signing ceremony, French President Francois said, “The developed world has caused the climate change of today due to their 100 years of relentless carbon emissions.”  His words echo the words of Pope Francis: “The countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused” (Laudate Si, 170).

Our Call to Act

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening statement at the U.N. signing, “The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create.” In urging countries to act quickly on a national level, he said that implementing the agreement would end poverty, create jobs in the green sector, fight hunger and “improve the lives of girls and women.”

The United States is a key concern for the Paris Agreement as other countries worry what the next president might do.

It’s up to us, the people, to pressure our government to take a new path to economic growth and development that preserves the environment and takes responsibility for our nation’s actions. Thankfully recent polls say that support for climate action is growing in the United States.

As the Paris Agreement moves forward, there is some good news. "For the first time in history - despite the low prices of oil, coal, and gas - more of the world's money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than on new fossil fuel plants. Ceil Lavan, OP


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