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An Earth Day for the Ages

Unless you’ve been on a media fast for the last 6 months, chances are you have heard something about the Paris climate talks.You may have thought that the adoption of the Paris Agreement last year by all attending 196 nations of the world was the finish line; that the work of reaching a global consensus on climate change and a shared path forward had been accomplished. Well, yes and no...

The adoption of the Paris Agreement was a monumental achievement--the result of decades of multilateral negotiations and mind-bendingly complex diplomacy. However, the adoption of the text last December had no legal consequence. By design, the Paris Agreement will only go into effect when enough nations ratify it. This will happen when at least 55 of the nations that adopted the agreement in December, representing at least 55 percent of total global greenhouse gases, present ratification documents to the U.N. Ratification is a two-step process, involving both indication of consent to become a Party to the Agreement and presenting formal documents of ratification (depending on the country, approval for ratification must be obtained from the legislature. In the U.S., ratification of the Paris Agreement can be approved based on presidential authority). The first phase of this process, namely signing the Agreement and indicating consent to be bound to it as a Party, begins today (April 22, 2016) and runs until April 21, 2017 (for a great, in-depth explanation of this process, check out this article from the World Resources Institute).

And here’s the really good news:

The U.S. and China have both announced that they plan to sign the Agreement on the first day that signing is opened—today! Earth Day 2016. Since together the U.S. and China account for 45% of global emissions, it is all but assured that the signatories represented will achieve the target of 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions--on the very first day of signing.

If the adoption of the Paris Agreement was the world setting it’s feet firmly in the starting blocks of the race to adequately address the challenges of climate change before it is too late, then the signing of the Agreement today by the U.S., China, and dozens of other countries is a strong jump off the starting gun. There is still much race to be run, but the start has been strong and the pace is being set.

Today will undoubtedly go down as one of the most consequential Earth Days in the history of the day; an Earth Day for the ages.

How can you get involved?

  • Celebrate with a Facebook post or a Tweet about the big day. Link to this article, the World Resources Institute article linked above, or to another article that you found informative
  • Email your pastor or worship team to ask if they can work the occasion into your church’s bulletin or your worship time on Sunday.
  • Tell your pastor or worship team about Good Seed Sunday, a day to celebrate creation in our lives of worship. Sponsored by our friends at A Rocha Canada.
  • The Paris Agreement will be ratified by the U.S. by presidential authority as an executive agreement (it is unknown whether Canada will ratify by Parliamentary treaty or executive agreement). Though it would be difficult, it is conceivable that a future president or Congress could modify the U.S.’s commitment to the Agreement. That is why it is still so important that our legislators know that you support the ratification of the Paris Agreement and that you want them to legislate according to its principles. Take a minute to call your Congressperson/MP and tell them that you support the signing of the Paris Agreement today. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and the Canadian Parliament at 1-866-599-4999
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