What You Need To Know: The Paris Agreement

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What You Need To Know: The Paris Agreement 


The Paris Agreement is… A plan for the reduction of greenhouse gases by the international community in order to limit global temperature rise and the impacts of climate change around the world. This Friday, April 22, in New York City at the United Nations, 60 world leaders including Secretary of State John Kerry will be signing the agreement and committing to emissions reductions.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to accelerate at their current rate, we will see a 3 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century. That means that low-lying countries will experience extreme sea level rise, covering landmasses and islands, and inundating cities, including New York and Miami. Further, with significant temperature rise comes to increased frequency of extreme weather events, decreased crop viability, and increased incidence of contagious disease.

In order to address this problem, 196 nations joined together for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015. After two weeks of negotiations, the international community came to a historic agreement on how to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. The Paris Agreement includes commitments to reduce emissions and plans roadmaps for implementation from all parties known as Independently Determined National Contributions (INDCs). Since some countries are more able to pursue emissions reductions than other countries, the agreement establishes mechanisms to ensure the safe and just transition for Least Developed Countries and those most vulnerable to climate impacts. Every five years, parties to the Paris Agreement will come together to review their commitments and renew and increase greenhouse gas reductions.

This Friday, China, United States, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia and many European Union countries including Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, among other nations, will formally sign the agreement. While many nations have already begun working toward fulfilling their commitments, the formal signing of the agreement is a key moment in the concerted global effort to reduce carbon emissions. 

We care about it because… The Paris Agreement is a central element of the international effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Climate change both impacts our earth, natural resources, and global community, in particular vulnerable peoples both in the United States and around the world. In this way, the imperative to confront climate change comes from two places in our Jewish tradition. Not only are we “tilling and tending” the earth, as God told humankind in the Garden of Eden, by safeguarding against climate change (Genesis 2:15), but we are also “championing the poor and the vulnerable” (Proverbs 31:9).

The Jewish community has long joined with Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, and other faith partners to care for creation. Last year, Pope Francis signaled the Catholic Church’s commitment with the issuance of his encyclical Laudato Si, in which he wrote: “The climate is a common good belonging to all and meant for all.”  Building on years of religious-environmental teaching, his writings showed the world how action to stop the changing climate is a moral obligation.  The groundbreaking Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change signed in Istanbul last August similarly recognizes the need for a multi-faith response to this universal challenge. 

We’ve already… Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Manager Liya Rechtman joined interfaith leaders in Paris to advocate for an agreement that met the needs of vulnerable communities and the standards of climate justice. French President Francoise Hollande thanked the faith community for supporting the Paris Agreement throughout negotiations and advocating to world leaders for a solution. 

COEJL released two statements on the Paris Agreement. The first statement was released after the first week of negotiations, outlining priorities for a successful agreement according to our Jewish values. Read the first statement here. The second statement lauds the agreement as ambitious and justice-oriented. Read the second statement here.

How To Get Involved

The signing of the Paris Agreement coincides with Earth Day and the first night of Passover. Take a look at this Earth Justice Haggadah for environmental Seder inserts and discussion starters this Passover.

Additional Resources

  • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Manager Liya Rechtman wrote about her experience in Paris. Read her reflections here and here.
  • Religious Action Center Director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, and former President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention Reverend Dr. Caroll Baltimore co-authored an article last year on Earth Day 2015 and Jewish environmental advocacy. Read the article here.

Please contact Liya Rechtman at lrechtman@thejcpa.org with any questions.

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