Good job, say church leaders after Paris climate pact, but note it's just the start

(Photo: © Sean Hawkey / WCC)During the UN COP 21 climate talks in Paris in December 2015, a delegation of faith leaders and climate change activists met with President François Hollande.

Global church leaders have welcomed the landmark Paris climate agreement for taking into account the immediate needs of poor countries most severely affected by extreme weather, urging the push for action be sustained.

Pope Francis urged the international community to urgently follow up on the path set by the climate deal reached in Paris only hours after it was clinched.

"With the hope that special attention for the most vulnerable populations is guaranteed, I exhort the whole international community to proceed on the path undertaken in the name of an ever more effective solidarity," said Francis.

When he spoke at St. Peter's Square after reciting the Sunday Angelus prayer Dec. 13, the Pope recalled the Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris and said it was "described by many as historic."

The agreement commits countries to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees centigrade, while making all efforts to keep 1.5 degrees.

It is hoped the agreement - the most significant in history - will unleash worldwide action and investment in low-carbon, resilient and sustainable technology.

Leaders of 195 nations agreed developed countries shall support developing countries to adapt and grow in a clean and sustainable way.

They promised to support countries to further develop ways of addressing loss and damage, including non-economic losses.


Church leaders stressed the critical role churches and faith-based organizations played in the process leading up to Paris. They urged churches to now push global leaders to implement the agreement.

When the agreement was announced the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, tweeted, "The Paris Agreement is a reality. We have the right to hope! Thanks to God! And thanks to all who have walked steps towards climate justice."

The Lutheran World Federation general secretary Rev. Martin Junge said, "What a step and what a goal. Let's put all our weight behind it. The big difference to get us there is the little difference each of us can make to get us there."

"Well done to the joint ACT Alliance, LWF, and WCC team in Paris for your hard work resulting into an ambitious climate agreement," tweeted John Nduna, general secretary of ACT Alliance.

More than 100 people from the three organizations worked alongside other faith and civil society representatives at Paris.

For Tveit, Junge and Nduna, COP21 would not have been nearly as strong – let alone agreed - without the global climate movement, which included many churches and religious organizations.

Last week, Daniele Violetti, chief of staff of the United Nations climate change body praised the role of inter-faith organizations.

"Thank you for all that you did on the way to Paris and during the conference. The moral imperative has been at the center of the climate talks and that is a direct consequence of your engagement," said Violetti.

"You continue to want to be engaged. This is essential," he added.

Nevertheless, experts agree, the deal in itself will not deliver a safe world. World leaders must increase commitments review commitments in 2023 and scale up in 2025. The review will be every five years.

"By itself the Paris agreement provides no legally binding way to drive our common ambitions into practical implementation", Tveit commented.

"The new accord announced in Paris will also require our continuous mobilization to ensure that leaders live up to their stated commitments."

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