© Sean Hawkey/WCC

© Sean Hawkey/WCC

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.

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

Upon announcement of the agreement, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, used his Twitter account to express gratitude and hope: “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,” he wrote.

The Lutheran World Federation general secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge welcomed the historic achievement by posting, “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 Dr John Nduna, general secretary of ACT Alliance.

Over 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.

No guarantee of a safe world

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 comments. “The new accord announced in Paris will also require our continuous mobilization to ensure that leaders live up to their stated commitments”, he adds.

Rev. Fletcher Harper, from Our Voices, the global faith and spiritual
climate action network, stressed that “the commitments must be made real. All of us will need to play a part,” he said. “We're ready for the next stage of this journey. This agreement represents the end of the beginning of humanity's reckoning with climate change”, added Harper.

Paris agreement signals climate friendly, more equitable future (ACT Alliance press release of 12 December)

Churches stand side by side in fight against climate change (LWF press release of 10 December)

“Leave no one behind”: COP21 must tackle climate risks of the poorest and most vulnerable (WCC press release of 7 December)

Scientists Enlist the Big Gun to Get Climate Action: Faith (New York Times press release of 6 December)

This press release was produced and published jointly, between the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and ACT Alliance.