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Going beyond the Summit on Climate Change: A look into the future...

Is everything done with the COP 21? The COP 21 (the 21st International Conference on Climate Change or the 21st Conference of the Parties) has come to an end on last Saturday 11 December.

This was an historic moment as the 195 countries represented at this Conference reached an agreement to carry out joint actions on mitigation and adaptation to climate change affecting our planet.

Many people were behind this great achievement. We have the action of those working through different movements, groups, NGOs, sectors of civil society and the different religious confessions, politicians, scientists and educators. But most especially  behind this we have the populations living in extreme poverty and who are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Some points to highlight, among others, in the agreement:  the intention of reducing to zero emissions of gases into effect greenhouse gases by the middle of this century; change the energy production systems; maintain the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius although 1.5 degrees was proposed, the will to grant a budget to help developing countries to create new energy systems.

The agreement is yet to be further developed and requires the political will of States, especially the rich countries, in order that the agreement becomes reality. We cannot wait and delay our action. We have to think and act fast enough because thousands of millions of people are at risk due to climate change. The soil is affected, strong droughts or flooding become more prevalent, sea levels rise and all this causes the many disasters we have seen affecting our planet in recent years due to climate change. These disastrous effects have increased because the lack of agreement at the previous summits.

Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato SI (52, 53) reminds us: “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future. The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programs of sustainable development. The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes and to cover their costs. We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities. As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests”. We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.

These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness. The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.”

Implementing these agreements (COP 21) will depend not only on Governments but also on the common effort of each inhabitant of the planet, all committed and involved to mitigate the devastating current effects of climate change and thinking of future generations. We need a change of systems, structures, and devastating practices for the planet. We need advocacy work and pressure on Governments at the national and international levels to achieve the creation of policies on climate justice and human rights for all. We need to support initiatives in global networking, etc. Ways are many and varied. What is important is that everyone finds a place and each one bring their action to the fore: Then we can go forward to make a pathway which takes care of and protects our “common house” and the whole of creation, Laudato SI, Oh my Lord.

I want to finish this article/reflection with an invitation to deepen and put into practice the Congregational Position Paper on Ecology (GSIJPO,2011) where our statement is clear concerning the Ecology, and I quote this excerpt:

In responding fully to our Good Shepherd Congregational Position on Ecology, it is critical to:

Continue to update our theology and prayer in relation to newer understandings of earth science, new insights about cosmology, and knowledge of universal Human Rights. We recognize that the interdependence of all expands the reality of human rights to include rights of all – non-human, living and non-living.

Integrate linkages between our prayer and theology and the rights of women and children, especially those in conditions of poverty.

Evaluate and adjust our personal daily life style and our communal life style decisions – consumption, production, use of natural resources – in light of the kinship and sustainability of the universe.  Consider positive options such as fair trade purchasing, 

avoidance of non-renewable disposable products, choice of food options that support local agriculture and low energy production.

Evaluate our service projects and programs from the principles of respect for the earth, compassionate care for the community, and reverence for the sustainability of present and future generations.

Be politically active in issues such as free trade, climate change, practices of trans-national corporations that diminish human rights, and national energy policies. Analyze and confront economic policies that lead to human and earth degradation. Any investments we hold require such analysis.

Include analysis, in all advocacy efforts and political action, of the effect of environmental degradation on women and those who live in poverty, including indigenous populations.

More information about COP 21: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

Link to download the Statement COP 21 in 6 languages: http://unfccc.int/documentation/documents/advanced_search/items/6911.php?priref=600008831

Submitted by Yolanda Sanchez Contreras

GS NGO Representative Geneva