News update from Paris Climate Conference

Dear Readers,

Medical Mission Sisters participated in the Conference of Parties (Cop21) or the UN Climate Conference in Paris from Nov 30- Dece12. Please refer to the MMS Intranet, Society Home page for the report by Agnes Lanfermann and Elizabeth Vadakekara who attended the first week.

I attended the second week and on Dec 9 the MMS co sponsored parallel event “keep the Fossil fuel in the ground” was well attended both inside the official venue as well as at the civil society space. All speakers were excellent and spoke not only of the ill effect of Fracking but victims of fracking shared their agonizing efforts to protect their land and lives. One of the speakers Sandra Steingraber shared her struggle and success in getting a ban on fracking in the state of New York. An activist and a cancer survivor, she used her Award (for her excellent work) to set up an organization called New Yorkers Against Fracking. She highlighted the importance of people’s power for an ongoing fight against the corporate interest. The co- founder of Bill Mckibben talked about the scientific reality of the link between fracking and global warming. The Executive director of Food and water watch Wenonah narrated the effect of waste from fracking on our food and water.

There were several events as well as 500 plus protests outside the official venue demanding Climate justice and systems change while strongly opposing fossil fuel and other corporate control.

Friday Dec 11 was the last day of the Scheduled conference but in spite of working at the wee hours in to Saturday morning, the agreement was not reached. The Group of 77 chaired by South Africa’s diplomat Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, used her leadership not only to affirm the united approach of the developing countries but also demanded the rich nations to fulfill their commitment . Finally the talks concluded in the evening of Saturday with an agreement on addressing climate change. “We have come to a defining moment on a long journey that dates back decades,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as delegates prepared to pass the final plan, which is known as the Paris Agreement. “The document with which you have just presented us is historic. It promises to set the world on a new path to a low emissions, climate-resilient future,” he said.

French foreign minister and president of the Cop 21 (Conference of Parties), Laurent Fabius exercised his able leadership and power to get this agreement done in spite of the shock of terrorist attack setting a good example to the world. Fabius said: “It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth.”

Many considered it as a victory for the United Nations, which spent four years overcoming political inertia and the deep divisions between rich and poor countries, to put together the ambitious deal.“I used to say: we must, we can, we will,” Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief who guided the talks, tweeted. “Today we can say we did.”

Paris agreement a watershed moment claimed by all.

The US president, Barack Obama, claimed the agreement as “a tribute to strong, principled American leadership”, some others attributed it to Pope Francis, yet others think it was the aggressive diplomacy of likeminded developing countries (LMDC) lead by Malaysia and campaigned by strong India besides the unity of G77 (Group of 134 Countries).Citizens around the globe including me believe that it was the pressure created of People’s Power. Perhaps a combination of all the above brought to the “watershed moment” in history. As the Prime Minster of India Narendra Modi Tweeted, ‘there are no winners or losers but Climate Justice won”.

Paris agreement and the Climate reality

Government and business leaders said the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, sent a powerful signal to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy. According to the Analysis, the Paris agreement is not enough to solve the climate problem though 187 countries have put forward their- Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) plans for how to cut and curb their emissions beyond 2020, as far out as 2030. But those pledges are not enough to keep warming below 2C, beyond which climate change is expected to have catastrophic impacts. According to several analyses,INDC will see around 2.7-3C, which is still a grave concern. Now the Job as said by Bill Macben, “is to hold the world leaders accountable to what they have agreed”.UN SG Ban ki Moon has invited all of them to NY to sign the agreement in April 2016.

Protest in Arc de Triomphe ( built by Napoleon)
On Dec 12 despite the French government’s protest ban, people of all ages from around the world (most of us were participants of Cop21) gathered with courage, creativity and determination to make our dissent. While the final text of the Paris deal was being wrestled into shape, we were standing near the Arc de Triomphe, underneath a huge red line. This stretch of scarlet fabric was one of many held aloft by chanting and singing members of a 15,000-strong crowd. They – we – were there to demand climate justice; to condemn an international deal that we already knew would cross crucial red lines for the climate.
Even though the Climate pact is not good enough to keep the temperature below 1.5C, there is enough reason to rejoice since all countries committed to taking ambitious steps in accordance to national circumstances and capabilities is a sign that the world is in the right direction.
Amidst the huge crowd I had almost given up the hope of meeting the MMS from London after searching for them in the entire morning. As I was leaving the protest venue just like a miracle there appeared the two remarkable women – Nichola Lovett and Rita Syron after four demonstrations elsewhere! What a joy! While we were talking there was another interview by a professor in one of the French Universities to hear our opinion of the climate realities on the ground to educate her students.
The incredible energy I experienced particularly among the activists and civil society groups in Paris gives me hope that humanity can behave responsibly not only to save our generation but also generations to come.

I wish to thank all the readers for your interest, encouragement and above all for your valuable prayers. Let us continue our people and planet centered battle for life and love.

Warm regards,

Celine Paramunda