Columbans Celebrate Signing of Paris Agreement on Earth Day

April 22, 2016

Contact: Jenny Labbadia, Communications and Outreach Associate

Office: 202-635-5812, Email: jlabbadia@columban.org

Washington, DC – Today, on Earth Day, countries around the world gather to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

On December 12, 2015, nearly 200 countries officially agreed to an international climate agreement in Paris that aimed to cut global carbon emissions and keep the global temperature well below 2°C of global warming, compared to pre-industrial levels. Today, April 22, marks the first day that nations can officially sign the climate agreement.

After the December 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, Ellen Teague, of the Columban Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) team in the United Kingdom, said:

“There was tremendous energy in Paris when the Agreement was adopted last December. Columban JPIC was privileged to be present at the handover of faith petitions to the climate talks and witness the power of the faith lobby. We are delighted now to witness the high-level signing ceremony on international Earth Day, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as a first step in implementing the Paris Agreement. We urge countries to adopt the agreement within their own legal systems, through ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.”

For many years, Columbans have been at the forefront of raising awareness about the moral implications of climate change. In 2015, Columbans in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States became founding members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM).

More recently, Columbans were one of 30 Catholic organizations to sign an amicus brief in support of the Clean Power Plan in the United States. The new legislation, which aims to reduce the carbon emissions from primarily coal-powered plants, is a crucial step toward fulfilling the United States’ commitment in the Paris Agreement to aggressively reduce our emissions levels.

While the United States and China are the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters—together accounting for almost forty percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions—it is the poorer, developing nations that suffer the most from the devastating impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events continue to threaten the people of many nations where Columbans serve.

For example, two months ago, Cyclone Winston devastated the island nation of Fiji, where Columbans live and work in local parishes. Six months ago, another super typhoon (Koppu) hit the Philippines, where Columbans have worked since 1929, drenching the northern island of Luzon with massive amounts of rain.

For all these reasons and more, Columbans are committed to holding the government accountable to their commitment to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The signing of the Paris Agreement reminds us all of the urgent need to protect, as Pope Francis refers to it, “our common home.” As celebrations for Earth Day come to a close, our faith tradition calls us to address climate change on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, creation, and future generations.

###

The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is the advocacy office for the Missionary Society of St. Columban. The Center serves as the line of communication between Columban missionaries serving in 15 countries around the world and policy makers in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to work towards a more just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world by engaging in the political process guided by our Catholic faith and the Gospel.