Climate deal lauded by UCC environmental advocates, compliance now up to us
Now that nearly 200 nations have approved the first global pact to fight climate change that calls on the world to collectively cut carbon pollution, what happens next? UCC environmental advocates are calling on people of faith to put pressure on the fossil fuel industry and on world governments to ensure compliance.
“The world’s climate negotiators have finally realized that nature doesn’t negotiate,” said the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister and president of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ. “Now it’s up to the people to make the fossil fuel industry comply with both science and hope.”
The “Paris Agreement” adopted Sat., Dec 13., during the climate change conference (COP21) aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) between now and 2100 and pledges to limit the amount of greenhouse gas pollution created by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can naturally absorb, beginning in 2050. The historic accord, the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, now faces ratification by 55 governments before taking effect.
“From Pope Francis and Desmond Tutu to the UCC’s Jim Antal and Earth Ministry’s LeeAnne Beres, the faith community showed tremendous leadership in the months leading up to the Paris climate talks,” said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC environmental justice minister. “With the new international climate accord, faith leadership –– especially in local congregations –– will become all the more important. Regardless of what one thinks of the agreement, one thing is certain: in seeking to end the fossil fuel era as rapidly as possible, moral action is needed to make sure local policies reflect global aspirations.”
Antal agrees. “Whatever your view of what COP21 accomplished, what matters for our children and grandchildren is that each of us embrace the vocation of our generation to assure that the highest aspirations of this agreement are achieved. That will only happen if people of every faith perspective –– and of no faith perspective –– persistently witness with our wallets, publically proclaim our politics, and boldly disrupt business as usual with our bodies.”
Berndt noted that the United Church of Christ is once again taking a leadership role by launching a campaign in Greater Cleveland, home to the denomination’s national offices, to collect signatures of interfaith leaders on a letter that calls upon local utilities to achieve 30 percent renewable energy within 5 years and then continually increase target goals in five-year increments until 100 percent renewable energy is achieved.
“We launched this sign-on letter for faith leaders in the Cleveland area last week, and we have already been encouraged by the results,” said Berndt. “With 35 faith leaders on board, we are well on our way to our goal of more than 50 signers. Those who have signed represent an array of faiths including Islam and Judaism along with long-standing ecumenical allies like the Disciples of Christ and Presbyterian (USA). This letter is truly a model for what faith communities can do around the country. More sign-on letters that target local officials and utilities would give concrete shape to the new direction our world so desperately needs. This is the kind of concrete action that is now needed by faith communities everywhere.”
“When the UCC Synod voted to divest 2-1/2 years ago, no one imagined that the world community would divest $3.4 trillion as a prelude to the Paris climate talks,” said Antal. “Negotiators heard ‘keep it in the ground’ from investors and activists alike. And in response, negotiators from almost 200 countries delivered an agreement with enough aspiration to give hope a chance. This accord was accomplished thanks to courageous scientists like Naomi Oreskes and activist leaders like Bill McKibben, along with the millions of people who have persistently stood up for creation.”
Now, Antal says, it’s time for the real work to begin. “Grateful that business leaders stepped up in Paris, it’s time for people of faith to step out into the streets and demand that politicians fulfill their obligation to future generations and to the common good.”
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