Caritas welcomes climate deal but says still a lot to do

Photo by Caritas

Caritas at COP. Photo by Caritas

The current negotiation text will soon be adopted as the new and only universal deal on climate change. Mass mobilisation and pressure came from the people as they took to the streets, and it is due to this pressure on politicians that we now see a reference to 1.5 C degree temperature rise target, a mention of the concept of climate justice and a signal to the fossil fuel industry that its time has come to an end.

The draft agreement holds countries to keep the global average temperatures well below 2 C degrees with only a reference to the 1.5 C degree threshold. For Catholic development organisations working to advocate for a fair and just deal for the world’s poorest people the 1.5 C degree temperature rise threshold is a step in the right direction, which will only help achieving climate justice if: the emissions cuts by developed countries are scientifically credible and achieved by mid century; there is a mechanism to transparently review progress and increase countries’ commitments. Substantial and predictable funding should also be required so all countries can play their part in reducing emissions to near zero over the coming decades.

A joint Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE delegation was present throughout the fortnight-long talks, known as COP21. “We were hoping for courage and creativity from leaders to tackle climate change, yet the draft agreement lacks ambition and does not offer an adequate solution to this global emergency which is affecting millions of the most vulnerable people on Earth. While the essential connection between climate change, poverty eradication and equitable access to sustainable development has been made, it is regrettable that human rights are not at the core of the draft climate agreement and we should avoid vested interests prevailing over the common good.” said Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis.

“Inspired by the words of Pope Francis, together with hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world, we called governments to consider the moral dimension of political decisions in relation to climate change, and to put the poorest communities who are suffering the most from climate change impacts at the centre of the debate in Paris. The care for our common home requires us to realize that we are faced with a complex social and environmental crisis.” said Heinz Hödl, CIDSE  President and Director of KOO.

Concerning climate finance, while it is reassuring to see that richer countries will take the lead,  there is little indication of how they plan to scale-up their contributions from the existing 100 billion (US dollars) obligation. We wanted to see governments secure predictable sums of finance for developing countries adaptation needs, sadly that didn’t happen. There is no guarantee that the developing countries future financing needs will be met. To echo Pope Francis, those who are most responsible for the climate crisis must pay their ecological debt towards those least responsible.

Another concern is that the protection of human rights is now absent from the core of the draft agreement, which bears the risk that some climate projects may endanger human rights, while at the same time a lack of a reference to food security is a further blow for vulnerable communities around the world. The draft deal also does nothing to protect their land rights –  land is treated as a means of offsetting emissions in the draft deal, which gives no consideration to people  living on those lands and could therefore undermine people’s livelihoods and way of life. This gives big polluters a chance to grab lands to offset projects and displace indigenous communities, while reducing arable land and continuing to increasing emissions at home.

For the first time the issue of loss and damage, which has been controversial for years, has been included in the proposed new agreement. While the decisions may provide a baseline to support those affected, it was disappointing to see a few countries wanting to avoid their responsibility to compensate for the irreparable and irreversible damage that is caused by climate change to the front line communities and people.

Despite this inadequate text, Caritas Internationalis and CIDSE say they are heartened by the unprecedented demonstration of solidarity from the climate justice movement throughout 2015, which the agencies remain committed to facilitate and support, as campaigners shift their focus to holding politicians accountable for their responsibilities under the new agreement. There is a strong appetite from people of all walks of life for political action on climate change. The movement for climate justice is a growing one, which will continue beyond Paris.

Michelle Hough – Communications Officer
+39 06 6987 9752 or +39 334 234 4136
hough@caritas.va

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

Caritas Internationalis
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