After Paris - Climate Change & Political Will

AFTER PARIS – A MEETING OF THE CHURCHES TOGETHER ECO-FAITH GROUP

The Churches Together Eco-Faith Group keeps abreast of issues affecting the common environment of humanity and all the world’s creatures, reflecting how Christian faith responds, and what Christian people can do about them. A principal issue is climate change. The summit in Paris in December 2015 made ground-breaking proposals to ameliorate climate change, but their effectiveness will only be seen as each nation takes drastic action.

Our meeting on Tuesday January 12th was addressed by Dr Peter Brotherton, a Director at Natural England and Adviser on the Environment to the Bishop of Peterborough. His talk covered evidence for climate change, the agreements reached in Paris, and what happens next.

Evidence for Climate Change.  The impression that the world is becoming warmer is supported by scientific evidence. Air bubbles in Antarctic ice contain differing proportions of oxygen isotopes, a frozen record of atmospheric temperature, as well as showing the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at the time the air was trapped.  Analysis of these gases gives a clear picture of the link between increases in carbon dioxide and steadily rising temperatures. Further evidence comes from rise in sea level - 17cms in the last century continues at an increased rate – and also from spectacularly shrinking ice sheets. Extreme weather events are on the increase.

Agreements reached in Paris. In the end 196 countries agreed to keep average climate warming below 2o Celsius, while pursuing efforts to restrict it to 1.5o. By the second half of the current century there would need to be net zero carbon emissions. Signatories will publish nationally determined contributions every five years and report their emissions.
These objectives will not be binding until the treaty comes into force: open for signature from April 22nd 2016, it will be in force when 55 or more countries, representing at least 55% of global greenhouse emissions, have signed.

What happens next?  If successfully implemented, the Paris agreement will keep average climate warming to 2oC – but this “average” value is misleading, as much the World is ocean which will warm less – land areas, and in particular polar areas, will see a much greater increase, with decidedly unpleasant effects. Catastrophic climate changes – such as flooding seen in recent weeks in the U.K. – will continue to be felt, and sea level will rise at an increased rate. These changes are already locked in for the next 40 years; successful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can however prevent an even worse situation. To achieve this demands a multifaceted global approach:

  • Implementation of the Paris treaty and effective monitoring
  • Massive expansion in renewable energy generation
  • Technological progress in the intractable fields of large-scale energy storage and negative emissions solutions (e.g. carbon capture)
  • Possibly making energy efficiency measures compulsory for corporations and private citizens
  • Target setting and monitoring at all levels – cities, businesses, nations – and international co-operation among them

We also need to adapt to the new climate and weather patterns we will experience, and natural solutions (such as restoring floodplains) have an important part to play. There is a role for private citizens: we can all consume less – eating less meat, reducing waste, and shopping responsibly – and can lobby MPs and MEPs to keep action on climate change at the forefront of the political agenda. Churches can influence public opinion as well as contribute to reducing climate change effects by introducing and promoting responsible stewardship – schemes like Eco-Church (recently relaunched by A Rocha, see http://arocha.org.uk/new-scheme-to-help-churches-go-green/) can help provide a framework.

Following Peter’s presentation there was wide-ranging discussion about what might reduce the impact of climate change.

  • should Gross Domestic Product be discarded as a measure of economic achievement in favour of a broadly based assessment of non-monetary as well as monetary value?
  • should price be used to control take-up of commodities that have a significant impact on climate? – the obvious but by no means only example being fuel. [It was also said that “there is too much driving around”]
  • should population growth be limited? - however currently increased personal consumption plays a greater part than population growth in increasing climate change
  • the value of “carbon conversations” – facilitated group discussions to help individuals recognise and reduce their carbon “footprint” – the extent to which their personal lifestyle results in greenhouse gas emissions
  • and more…

 

In its programme of quarterly meetings and other activities the Eco-faith Group will continue to consider the impact churches and Christians can have on climate change and other Environment issues. If you would like to know more contact us – email secy.eco-faith@virginmedia.com.

 

Our next meeting is on April 5; 7.30 for 7.45 in the Becket Chapel in the Cathedral Precincts (approach via Midgate and Wheel Yard)
PETERBOROUGH – ENVIRONMENT CAPITAL.  Get an update and say with:
Counsellor Nigel North (Cabinet Member for Environment)
Carly Leonard of PECT. 


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