The United Church of Canada added its voice to those celebrating the global climate deal recently reached in Paris where nearly 200 countries agreed on new measures to limit global warming as a source of hope and action.
“We welcome this agreement, and look forward to working with other faith groups and governments on ensuring its ambitious goals of striving to limit global warming to 1.5° and reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century are met,” said the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, the church’s Moderator.
The United Church sent a three-person delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France. As head of the delegation, former Moderator Mardi Tindal expressed deep satisfaction with worldwide consensus.
“The final agreement is ambitious, and it is far better than anything we’ve had before,” she said. “This is a bold first step toward a new economy, a new and healthier society for all.”
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a framework for Canada’s climate policy within 90 days,” added Tindal. “During the negotiations Canada played a constructive role, supporting the emphasis on the 1.5°C limit on global warming, for example. Canadian negotiators also argued for the inclusion of the rights of Indigenous peoples, and a just transition for the work force within the operative section of the agreement. As people of faith and care of all of creation, we are now invited to engage with our own government to ensure that the progress made at the talks becomes a reality in the Canadian context.”
The church’s partners in Paris also praised the agreement, while noting there is still more to be done.
Mattias Söderberg, head of the ACT Alliance delegation, called on world governments to “close the remaining loopholes… More and faster climate action is needed to adequately address the core concerns of poor and vulnerable people. The implementation of the Paris Accord must be accelerated by national action and deepened international cooperation.”
The Canadian arm of the Climate Action Network agreed that the agreement’s shortcomings are eclipsed by its positive attributes.
“While there are gaps in the agreement that require further work, its historic significance cannot be overstated,” a statement from the group read. “This is a strong signal that we are starting the transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.”
From coast to coast, United Church congregations have been doing their part to fight global warming. Evidence of that can be found on the roof of East Korah Maxwell United Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where solar panels now provide power for the building.
At St. James United Church in Peterborough, Ontario, the installation of energy-efficient lighting has reduced power consumption by 10,326 kilowatt-hours per year, with annual savings of $851.
Replacing an old furnace system with heat exchange pumps, coupled with replacing floodlights with 23-watt compact fluorescent bulbs allowed Nelson United Church in British Columbia to lower its gas and electrical costs by 36% in the 12 months following installation.
And on Canada’s East Coast, Stella Burry Community Services, which the church partly funds, is redeveloping a site to provide 19 subsidized rental units. The project involves energy performance upgrades such as additional insulation, high-performance windows, and a heat pump system. These changes are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 49 tonnes per year.
“Human societies must learn to live in a much more ecologically integrated manner within the Earth community,” the United Church stated in 2000, “drawing on energy sources in ways that do not damage ecosystems or compromise the capacity of the Earth to meet the needs of current or future generations.”