~ by Brian Roewe, Earth Beat, National Catholic Reporter
On October 31st the United Nations climate change summit, COP26, is set to begin in Glasgow, Scotland.
The two-week (10/31 – 11/12) has long been billed as a critical checkpoint in the global effort to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times – a key threshold to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.
Scientists have said in order to keep that goal in sight, drastic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, at least a 45% overall reduction, need to be made this decade.
Some 20,000 delegates, and thousands more activists and advocates, are expected to attend COP26, which is being hosted by the United Kingdom along with Italy. Count many Catholics – albeit no long the pope – and religious leaders and activists among them. Catholics who will be in Glasgow say there are many reasons for people of faith to pay attention to the proceedings.
Reason # 1: Pope Francis cares (as do many faith leaders)
For more than two years, the Vatican has been preparing for COP26 and considering what contribution it could make to help ensure a successful summit. Pope Francis said he hoped the Glasgow summit “will lead to effective agreement in addressing the consequences of climate change. Now is the time to act, for we are already feeling the effects of prolonged inaction.”
Reason # 2: Paris Agreement wasn’t the end, but a beginning
In 2015, nearly every nation on Earth adopted the Paris climate accord where for the first time all countries, not just the most industrialized ones, committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. But the Paris Agreement only put the overall goals on paper; it did not include specific measure of how to get there. Much of the time since 2015 has been spent crafting the rulebook that spells out what countries can, and cannot, count in determining their emissions reductions.
Reason # 3 Catholic social teaching is on the table, especially for the poor
Name a principle of Catholic social teaching – from the dignity of every person, to solidarity and workers’ rights – and you will find it relates to the discussions at COP26, said Sr. Veronica Brand who represents the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, at the UN. “With the impact of climate change, we are talking about action on behalf of justice… We are talking about lives being threatened. We’re talking about livelihoods and the dignity of those who are most marginalized – the people who are suffering most from global warming and who have fewer resources to adapt and respond.
Reason # 4 The climate is not waiting for governments to agree
While world leaders and diplomats debate and hash out the details of the Paris Agreement, average global temperatures have continued to rise, with increasingly evident impacts. The six hottest years on record have occurred since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was reached and many parts of the world have been hit by extreme weather.
Reason # 5 The pandemic connection
Although COVID delayed the climate conference last year, many see the forced pause as an opportunity, especially for accelerating the global transition to clean energy necessary to achieve the 1.5 C target.
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