Progress made in Paris: but falls short of a fair deal for the world’s poorest communities

December 14, 2015

Church World Service welcomes bold new steps taken by world leaders in Paris, but remains concerned that it is not an equity based climate agreement that puts vulnerable people first.

More than 190 countries have contributed to a first, significant international agreement.  Consensus has emerged about the need to limit global warming to 2.00 degrees. CWS commends the High Ambition Coalition at which 79 countries, including the United States, voluntarily commit to lowering emissions and 5 year review mechanisms and systems for tracking progress. Newly locked into the agreement is a commitment to addressing global hunger; hereafter, explicit dedication to food insecurity should permeate climate policies. New finance has been pledged Small Island States and Least Developed countries, including up to $800 million from the Obama administration to help poor countries adapt.  North-South alliances for clean, sustainable and solar energy have emerged, incorporating public and private sector collaboration.  None of this would have been achieved without the persistent mobilization and advocacy by a global movement of civil society actors and affected communities, of which CWS is proud to have been a part.

However, these highlights don’t yet add up to the equity based agreement that many developing countries’ negotiators needed in order to wake up, in 2016, with fresh optimism about facing climate disasters back home.  Nor do they address urgent needs: 800 million people around the world today are chronically hungry.  In less than ten years, millions – women and children included – have been internally displaced by droughts, floods or other disasters.  Climate change has created problems at a rate faster than policy has addressed.  This Paris Agreement offers late reaction and little compensation to communities who did not create the problem.

Negotiators from at risk countries reasonably expected far greater concessions. Compelled by country narratives of costly disasters, decreased food production and climate induced conflict, they pushed for acknowledgement of a historically unequal use of the world’s carbon budget between developed and developing countries, and for human rights.  What they got instead was pre-determined positions from high carbon emitters, forced redaction of any text which referred to rich country obligations, and little room for negotiation. CWS is particularly concerned that the United States domestic ambitions to cut carbon and commit to international finance still only adds up to 1/5th of its fair share, while developing countries have pledged mitigation in line with or in excess of theirs.   Meanwhile, the agreed collective ambition still points us all, dangerously, to a 3.5 degree world.  Rather than rest on its laurels, and as a fuller expression of its global leadership and climate legacy, the United States government must do more.  It still has time to do so.

CWS works in more than 30 countries in some of the poorest communities.  All face climate risk; all need significant support.  Our convictions demand that we remain in solidarity with the vulnerable.  Our honesty requires us to accept that we have not yet fulfilled our obligation to them.   A long way remains to give the world’s poor more than just a fighting chance.  Rooted in traditions of solidarity, justice, faith and hope, Church World Service calls on the Obama Administration and Congress to keep an eye on the prize, and do more than just stay the course.

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Angela Rupchock-Schafer, 574-261-6252,