What Can I Do?

Pray and Act: Call for Climate Justice at COP21

prayers for cop21 in parisPray and act for climate justice at the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Paris (COP21), November 30–December 11, 2015. Add your voice to the growing call by people of faith for action to avert a devastating rise in global temperatures.

Take Action

Sign the Call for Climate Action offered by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a partner of the United Church. Invite friends, family, and members of your faith community to sign too! Your message will be carried by people of faith going to Paris, who will communicate these concerns with Canadian government officials.

Reflect on creation care with a worship service on November 29 (the first Sunday of Advent and the eve of COP21), or any time before or during COP21. Prayers for COP21 in Paris Worship Resources are on the CPJ site. Consider joining the Prayer Chain for COP21 in Paris—individuals and congregations across Canada are invited to carry these prayers forward, one hour at a time, throughout the climate change talks.

March in Ottawa on November 29 in 100% Possible: Marching Together for Climate Solutions and Justice. This festive, family-friendly march will urge our government to take bolder action on climate change. Faith communities will meet at 12:15 pm for an interfaith gathering of prayers and songs at the Canadian Human Rights Monument (on Elgin St., near City Hall) before joining the march. More details are available on CPJ’s website. Bus transportation to Ottawa may be available; visit the 100% Possible March website for up-to-date information.

Background

The problem is real. Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by roughly 0.85°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million. Climate change impacts are being felt around the world. The greatest burden is falling on people in the Far North and Global South—who have contributed least to the problem.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that decisive actions to get greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under control must be in place by 2017. Canada is one of the world’s most flagrant per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, emitting 14.7 tonnes per person per year, according to data from The World Bank. In 2009, the Government of Canada committed to reducing GHG emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; however, Environment Canada data indicates that we are less than halfway there.

At the upcoming climate change talks in Paris, Canada has the potential to do its fair share to keep global warming below dangerous levels. Global leadership is needed to mark a pathway to a renewable energy future now and to ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change do not bear its brunt. Change is possible: internationally, measures to address climate change and transition to green energy have proven to be consistent with a strong economy, quality jobs, and good health. In Canada, emissions reduction plans in several provinces have proven effective.

In September, the Canadian Council of Churches issued On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada, a call for action by the Government of Canada to end poverty and fight climate change. The Moderator of The United Church, along with leaders of 27 other Christian denominations and faith communities, endorsed the statement. In the lead-up to COP21, the United Church has called upon the Canadian government to commit to a legally binding target to cut our domestic carbon pollution by at least one-third within the next 10 years and to scale up public finance to enable an annual contribution of $4 billion in international climate finance by 2020.

Most recently, Catholic cardinals, patriarchs, and bishops from national or regional bishops’ conferences appealed for an agreement that would “strongly limit” global temperature increase and set a goal for complete decarbonization by mid-century, and would “ensure inclusion and participation of the poorest, most vulnerable and [most] impacted at all levels of the decision-making process.” This call is based on Pope Francis’s landmark May 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, which demands urgent action to save the planet from environmental ruin.

The United Church stated in 2000 that “Human societies must learn to live in a much more ecologically integrated manner within the Earth community drawing on energy sources in ways that do not damage ecosystems or compromise the capacity of the Earth to meet the needs of current or future generations.” At successive General Councils in 2009 and 2012, the United Church recognized that climate change threatens the world as we know it, and called the church as an institution, as well as its leaders, bodies, and congregants, to assume their respective responsibilities to take more urgent and intentional action to bring about a shift within the church and within Canada.

In 2015, General Council voted to encourage The United Church of Canada Foundation and the Executive of the General Council to take active steps to sell their holdings in the 200 largest fossil fuel companies, and to take active steps to use assets made available by divesting from fossil fuel companies to invest in green renewable energy cooperatives.

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