Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | October 28, 2011

Climate Justice: Bringing a Christian Voice to the Negotiations

Over the past few weeks, we have been asking Christians in the eco-justice community to sign their names to the Do iT in Durban campaign.

Will you consider asking members of your congregation to do the same thing?

Do iT in Durban means calling on President Obama to work for the following at the upcoming United Nations meeting on climate change:

  • Secure a fair, ambitious and binding agreement
  • Ensure adaptation assistance for the most vulnerable around the world
  • Guarantee climate justice for all

You can help Do iT in Durban by taking postcards to a Sunday service or church gathering and asking others to sign one – adding their voices to the thousands of Christians who are calling for climate justice.

Your congregation can add their voices in two ways: Email me and let me know how many postcards you need and where to send them. Alternatively, bring in a few laptops or iPads and ask people to sign the postcard online.

Thank you again for lifting up your voice for a just solution to climate change. Below is a brief history of climate negotiations, (compiled by our awesome Lutheran Volunteer Will!) for your background knowledge on what led us to this moment in the faith community’s work for climate justice.

A Brief History of Climate Negotiation

Scientists have been aware of the potential for humans to change earth’s climate for almost two-hundred years. An official, global response to the threat of climate change began in earnest with negotiations at the United Nations in the early 1990s on what would eventually become the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This convention was presented at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (popularly known as the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the summer of 1992. It entered into force in 1994, after receiving the needed number of ratifications.

The next major development in climate negotiations was the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997. The Kyoto treaty is a legally binding document which entered into force in February 2005. Under the Kyoto treaty, a nation’s CO2 emissions must be monitored, and a system of record-keeping and compliance oversight exists to ensure that signatories hold up their end of the treaty. The Kyoto Protocol also includes three market-based mechanisms, intended to incentivize a nation’s reduction of carbon output and foster green investment:

  • Emissions trading – known as “the carbon market”
  • Clean development mechanism (CDM)
  • Joint implementation (JI)

While the Kyoto Protocol is seen as a significant first step towards international cooperation on mitigating climate change, it is just that: a first step, a framework on which further climate negotiation can build. The United States is the only remaining signatory of the protocol that has not yet ratified the treaty, making the U.S. a single glaring exception to an otherwise heartening success story of global cooperation.

Since the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change, the Conference of Parties, the group of nations that have signed the UNFCC, has met annually. In the 2009, the 15th Conference of Parties was held in Copenhagen, Denmark as part of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Known as the Copenhagen Summit, this meeting produced the Copenhagen Accord, a document that states that measures should be taken to keep global climate from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and that would have extended the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. No legally binding agreement was reached, however.

In 2010, yet another UN Climate Change Conference was held in Cancún, Mexico. This Conference produced the so-called Cancún Agreements. While the Cancún Agreements are not legally binding, they represent an important step in negotiations. Signed by more than 190 countries, including the U.S. and China, these agreements call for reductions in emissions put forth in the Copenhagen Accord, and establish a green climate fund, a framework to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and mechanisms to promote green technology.

Because the Cancun Agreements are not legally binding, and because the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa marks a pivotal moment in the history of climate negotiations. Please sign and share this postcard petition.

For more information, click here to go to the World Council of Churches newsletter on climate justice.


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