Calls for Climate Justice in Paris


Starting Monday, November 30, government officials, corporate heads, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will meet for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) for climate negotiations, this time in Paris. World leaders and other official summit attendees will be protected by greatly enhanced security because of the tragic terrorist attacks. Civil society won’t enjoy such protection because demonstrations in Paris have been prohibited. But around the world people will gather to pray for solace for the victims of Paris and other recent attacks, for the success of the climate talks, and for peace. People around the world will also gather to demonstrate and call on world leaders to take strong action to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
I was part of the United Methodist delegation to Rio de Janeiro in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). It was clear even then that environmental concerns could not be effectively addressed without simultaneously addressing poverty and inequity. The governments of the world agreed in principle that “sustainable development” and justice for the poor were inseparable aspects of global action on climate change. There have been many summits, but greenhouse gas emissions are soaring, global temperatures are rising, while poverty and inequity continue unabated. People in poor and vulnerable nations, who are not responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions, are being hit first and worst by typhoons, floods, and killing droughts. These are the very regions where religious organizations and secular nonprofits reach out in compassion to provide relief to those who are in distress. According to the National Council of Churches, USA:
“The impacts of global climate change threaten all creation and will make it more difficult for people of faith to care for those in need. With expected increases in drought, storm intensity, disease, species extinction, and flooding, the impacts of global climate change will increase the lack of food, shelter, and water available, particularly to those living in or near poverty.”
Calls for “climate justice” are growing louder. Negotiators from vulnerable, hard-hit nations are pleading with those in wealthier nations to take strong and binding action to limit greenhouse gas emissions now. They are calling on world leaders in Paris to establish a just process for transfer of renewable technologies and payment of “climate debt.” Young people whose futures are being foreclosed are demanding strong and binding action on climate change. They are calling on negotiators to end fossil fuel subsidies and go beyond corporate-friendly systems of carbon credits and offsets, to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to transform the systems that are causing climate change.
People of faith and conscience on every continent are calling for those who gather in Paris to establish justice for the poor and vulnerable, intergenerational justice, and justice for all creation.
We must give special attention to the voices of those who live and work on the front lines of climate change: climate activists from the global South, people living in “sacrifice zones” polluted by fossil fuel extraction, women farmers struggling to feed their families, young people speaking out for intergenerational justice, and indigenous peoples calling for policies that respect the rights of the earth. Together this rising chorus expresses the yearnings of people joining together in the growing movement for climate justice and “system change not climate change.” Their pleas, demands, and warnings urge us to demonstrate God’s care and concern by praying and advocating for just policies on their behalf.

One thought on “Calls for Climate Justice in Paris

  1. Thanks for this very important article. To reinforce, its message, here are ten reasons Jews (and everyone else) should be concerned about climate change:
    1. Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and 99.9% of peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific journals argue that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activities, and poses great threats to humanity.
    2. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 16 warmest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. 2014 was the warmest year recorded and 2015 is on track to be even warmer, with the first six months of 2015 being the warmest initial six months ever.
    3. Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections.
    4. There has been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.
    5. California has been subjected to so many severe climate events (heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and mudslides when heavy rains occur) recently that its governor, Jerry Brown, stated that, “Humanity is on a collision course with nature.”
    6. Many climates experts believe that we are close to a tipping point when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur.
    7. While climate scientists believe that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 400 ppm in 2014, and the amount is increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.
    8. While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), largely because that is the best that can be hoped for with current trends and momentum, the world is now on track for an average increase of 4 – 5 degrees Celsius, which would produce a world with almost unimaginably negative climate events .
    9. The Pentagon and other military groups believe that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refuges fleeing from droughts, wildfire, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.
    10. Last, but far from least, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense has projected that, unless major changes soon occur, climate change in Israel will cause an average temperature rise up to 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a 20-30 percent decrease in precipitation, and a possible inundation of the coastal plain where most Israelis live by a rising Mediterranean Sea.

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