While negotiators from 195 countries were cloistered at Le Bourget last week at the COP21, Development and Peace staff and members joined British, French, Belgian, Dutch, German, Spanish, and Italian staff and supporters from Catholic development organizations from across Europe to share their commitment to climate justice. They inspired each other with strategies and solutions for fighting against climate change and for a more just world. With a focus on the power of people rather than on governments, these activities, which were organized as part of the Joint Action led by CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic international development organizations that Development and Peace belongs to, brought our movement together for an intense few days of conferences, workshops, poetry, briefings, demonstrations and a closing mass.
Arriving fresh from marches in our home cities, we shared our successes and challenges in educating our fellow citizens about the impacts of climate change on communities living in the Global South. With a focus on the many ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint, we also exchanged of the alternatives and solutions that we can adopt to do our part. From becoming a “Live Simply” parish, as CAFOD supporters in Great Britain do, to assisting communities in reducing waste in Germany, we shared the local, cooperative, ethical, and environmental alternatives that protect both people and the planet.
We heard from courageous leaders from Peru, Southern Africa, and island states in the South Pacific who are sounding the alarm on the urgency of the situation, and asking us to work with them together as global citizens to solve this global problem.
The participants left with a deeper understanding of the importance of curbing the overconsumption of fossil fuels and resources that we in northern countries take for granted, and the need to develop and promote alternatives that benefit people and the Earth. These community-led, ecological alternatives can even strengthen our communities, and leave them better than when we started. This commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, lobbying for a quick transition to renewable energy, and supporting our partner organizations in the Global South, is a solution to the climate crisis that we can all support.
Pope Francis tells us in his encyclical that “Today, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice so as to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” As the Canadian negotiators returned home with a signed climate agreement, and a lot of work ahead in order to respect it, our Development and Peace delegation left Paris with a stronger commitment to leading our communities in the transition to a world based on climate justice.