Latest news from Sr. Margaret Mayce, OP (Amityville) – NGO Representative for the Dominican Leadership Conference/Dominican Sisters International
As you know, President Obama has decided to move forward with what is considered one of the most decisive actions ever taken by the US government in the effort to deal with global climate change. He has proposed an Environmental Protections Agency regulation that would significantly cut carbon pollution from the over 600 coal fired power plants in this country. This move will be noted as a significant contribution to the ongoing UN climate talks, which culminate in November 2015at the Paris Climate Conference. At the conclusion of this meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate. This agreement would come into force in 2020, which would mark the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
UNFCCC & Kyoto Protocol
Paris will mark the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty which came into existence after the Earth Summit of 1992. The nations which have signed on to the UNFCCC are known as the Conference of Parties (COP). The treaty calls for the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, so as to prevent irreversible damage to people as well as Earth and her ecosystems. However, the treaty as such sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, nor does it contain any
provisions for enforcement. Rather, it provides provision for updates, known as “protocols,” which set limits on emissions. The principle update is the KyotoProtocol. The Kyoto Protocol recognizes the fact that the developed countries of the world are primarily responsible for the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Therefore, it is these countries who bear the greater burden under the principle of “common butdifferentiated responsibilities.”
Can the U.S. Turn the Tide?
Which brings us back to President Obama’s proposal to cut emissions from coal-burning plants. Historically, the United States has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Today, however, China is the top emitter, with India running a close second. Both these countries have been resistant to US pressure to curb their pollution, because they have seen no evidence of the US making efforts to do the same. But this may, indeed, be changing. Besides the decision to curb coal pollution, there have been two other significant announcements coming out of the US over the past month. The ThirdNational Climate Assessment was released, stating that “climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” And, Stanford University has announced that it’s $18.7 billion endowment will no longer make direct investments in coalmining companies.
Love for our Common Home
At a recent gathering at St. Paul’s Institute in London, entitled “Climate Change: Building the Will for Action,” Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC ended her remarks with these words:
“I often make a strong argument about the myriad components of change that must come together in order to accelerate us down the path toward low carbon. But today I would like to invoke one element that is missing. Quite simply, it is love. Love for ourselves, our children and their children, love for our neighborsacross the globe, love for our common home, Earth. I am not talking about feeble love. I am referring to tough love, the love that is strong enough to make decisions because we know that it is the right thing to do. Because we understand that ultimately we are all inter-related, interwoven with one another, and with this planet which we cannot replace.”