COP21 – We have a deal!


'The only world we have': Earth from space

Today, as Tim Peake (the first official UK Astronaut to go into space) spends his first full day on the International Space Station, I find myself pondering and marvelling at the limitlessness of human capacity. Admittedly, I even got a little emotional thinking about the bravery and childlike wonder of humanity, which at its very core, pursues the understanding of our world and beyond.

With this in mind, I think back to Saturday night as I was enjoying a (somewhat) well deserved (vegetarian) sushi party with friends in East London, when news came in that a climate deal had been struck in Paris. A friend of mine who works for DECC (Department for Energy and Climate) really couldn’t contain herself. She’d been there in Paris, not expressly part of the negotiations themselves, but heading up a smaller team looking over green start-up initiatives. She always maintained that she was a tiny cog in a much larger wheel, but I assured her she was making history.

She spoke of how difficult the negotiations were, how her boss, who had spent his entire career aiming to get to this point, had spent many sleepless nights with representatives from all over the world negotiating language, nuances, square brackets, terms and conditions. Crafting a document of 31 pages (sans square brackets) with terms that could mean exactly the same for capitalist western governments, as they would to communist South American ones.

As we are now presented with a Framework Convention on Climate Change, I’d like to end my analysis of the COP with thoughts on how Jesuit/Christian perspectives could impact on the future.

Summons to Solidarity

“In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound … the principle of common ground immediately becomes…a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters”.

This preferential option for the poor the Pope speaks of in Laudato Si, is a defining characteristic of the Jesuits. The results from the COP indeed reflect this, and it is pleasing to see that despite the Framework not being entirely legally binding, what is legally binding is a $100bn fund from developed nations to developing nations to aid their decarbonisation.

Communicating the Gospel

Where individual countries/figureheads might be limited by agendas, political divides etc, it appears the Gospel has a universal strength and appeal. According to British Jesuit Henry Longbottom SJ who provides legal advice for an environmental NGO and tweets as @greenjesuit:

“The church is a global community and all its members are affected by changes to the climate.  So unlike individual nations, it can speak universally.  I think world leaders and campaigners alike have appreciated the church being so vocal on the issue of climate change and injecting the debate with an ethical tone.”

Just yesterday morning in fact, BBC news speculated on the idea that Pope Francis may have had a say in saving the climate deal.

What’s clear to see is that legally binding and global agreements are merely the tip of an iceberg. This iceberg has already been set in place by us, the people. We continue to come out in force at marches, lobbies, churches, communities and schools. As we grow conscious of our effects on the world, we set in motion the changes that our implemented by our governments. This is fundamental, and comforting too.

Here at Jesuit Missions we look forward to a blessed Christmas and New Year, and will prepare ourselves for a busy 2016, and a full calendar of climate activities. First among these will be the Climate Coalitions annual SHOW THE LOVE campaign in February. Continue to watch our website for updates.

As Felix Baugatner said before his record breaking free fall jump from the stratosphere: “I wish you could see what I could see. Sometimes you have to be up really high, to understand how small you are. I’m coming home now.”

Let us pray that we never lose sight of how small we are in the cycle of life, and how this is the only home we have.

Samantha Aidoo, Education for Justice Coordinator, Jesuit Missions