Paris Climate Talks – Hope, Challenges, Action

Thermometer[UN-NGO] Sister Catherine Prendergast, representing the Company of the Daughters of Charity at the United Nations, shares the news below from the UN in New York:

The world took steps to preserve its very existence, December 12, 2015, by reaching an historic agreement on curbing climate change, during COP21 talks in Paris. (COP21 stands for the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties, meaning countries that have signed on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The countries’ expression of concern for climate change now must move from paper to pollution-reducing action. Daughters of Charity observing the Paris events included Sisters Catherine Prendergast and Monique Javouhey, who are Community NGO representatives to the UN.

WHAT WAS AGREED: COP21’s nearly 200 nations negotiated a pact which calls for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-Industrial levels, then working towards capping the temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius. It asks countries to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. It further requires countries to set emission-reduction targets. They must report progress and enhance the targets every five years. The agreement also provides that developing nations would collectively receive $100 billion per year, by 2020, for climate change projects.

WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT: As a result of the agreement, we should start seeing changes such as a reduction in fossil fuel use and its polluting effects, a cutback in emissions, an increase in sustainable energy and related technology, a greater green economy (ecologically friendly jobs and products), more efforts to plant and protect trees, attempts to clean up polluted air, and help with mitigating the effects of climate change.

CHALLENGES: For the agreement to be legally binding, it must be ratified by at least 55 of the 195 countries that adopted it without objection. And they must represent countries who produce at least 55% of all global warming emissions. Countries would sign the document at UN Headquarters in New York from April 22, 2016, to April 21, 2017. The agreement does not say how countries must achieve a reduction in emissions nor does it provide sanctions or penalties. Further, the pledges made by countries before COP21 would warm the atmosphere 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. But COP21 caused climate-change activists world-wide to unite. The countries’ progress must be reported, and if there are not vigorous efforts at achieving the agreed upon Paris goals, we can count on civil societies to put pressure (through protests and law suits) on governments to honor their promises.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Become familiar with your government’s plan. Then send letters to government leaders, encouraging them to ratify the COP21 agreement and carry out their promises. Do so before April 22, 2016.

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