It is nearly two years since the highly significant Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 195 countries*, and so far ratified by 169 governments, making their commitments legally binding. This month, from Nov 6th to 17th, the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in Bonn under the presidency of Fiji for the annual ‘Conference of the Parties’. COP23, as the shorthand has it, will focus on developing guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, essentially how to keep rising temperatures globally below 1.5 degrees.
With the latest Emissions Gap Report from the UN telling us that current plans, both by national and local governments and private sector companies, would lead to temperature rises of as much as 3C by the end of the century, there is much to do, to hope for, and to pray for. And if the US presses ahead with plans already announced, the picture would become even bleaker. It’s not all bad news: carbon dioxide emissions have held steady** since 2014. But emissions of other greenhouse gases, notably methane, have increased.
More renewable energy but also more greenhouse gases
There are positive signs that the world is moving away from its high-emissions trajectory – for instance, increased investment in renewable energy which has caused the price of low-carbon power to plunge around the world – but there is also a danger that if buildings and cities, including transport infrastructure, continue to be designed along current lines, they will ‘lock in’ high greenhouse gas emissions for the future.
The organisation Pray and Fast for the Climate asks us to pray for continuing achievements with renewable energy, an increased awareness – particularly on Nov 1st and 2nd – of those who have lost their lives defending God’s creation (so-called eco-martyrs), and ‘that all Christians will understand care for creation as an essential part of discipleship’. The relevance of our current emphasis in the Benefice on being good ‘stewards’ to caring for the climate should not need stressing.
Do we care for creation?
In the UK we are already at the point where over half our electricity came from low carbon sources this summer, and the trend looks set to continue as renewable prices fall. We need to encourage those working on the technology and the policy to take the renewables revolution forward. And we are asked to pray for more people and more churches to use the ‘Big Church Switch’ and turn to green tariffs.
Nov 1st 2017
*Only the US and Syria have chosen to be outside the scope of the global agreement.
**Emissions have held steady but the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed last year to reach a level not seen for more than 3 million years! The reason for this, given the slowdown in emissions, is the El Niño weather events of 2015/16 which intensified droughts and weakened the ability of vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide. And – and this bears repeating to all who will listen – as the planet warms, El Niños, like other extreme weather events, are expected to become more frequent…