The nations of the world have agreed to stronger action and greater ambition to tackle climate change. We have to play our part.
In a historic agreement, 185 nations made national pledges to reduce or slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
They agreed that the world must turn away from fossil fuels and the current pathway towards increasingly dangerous climate disruption. They committed to working to hold global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (we're already at around 1°C) and aim for 1.5°C – the level beyond which our Pacific Island neighbours and many of the most climate vulnerable countries face catastrophic threats to their economies, societies and even very existence.
They committed to reviewing and ratcheting up their commitments every five years – starting with a stocktake in 2018 and renewed pledges in 2020.
They agreed that the world needs to have zero net emissions – so that we emit no more greenhouse gases than our forests, soils and oceans are able to safely absorb – by the second half of the century.
They reaffirmed a commitment to ensure financial support for developing countries in their efforts to protect the poorest people and respond to the challenges of climate change and clean energy investment.
It's not a perfect deal by any means. It still leaves the world on a pathway towards extremely dangerous climate disruption (with projected warming of around 2.7°C). It does not yet provide sufficient support for developing countries – particularly the most vulnerable – to deal with the climate impacts they will face.
The Pacific Islands are drowning. We need the world's help
– Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi
But it's a powerful step forward. It sends a clear signal that Governments will act to reduce emissions. It offers a powerful long-term signal for greater investment in the clean energy technology and jobs of the future.
Australia must seize the opportunity to do more. Our targets to reduce emissions are among the lowest in the developed world, and we are using every possible loophole and carbon accounting angle to achieve even these unambitious targets while doing much less than we should. It's time to turn that around.
Rather than boasting that we have "already met" our 2020 emissions reduction targets (because of surplus international credits and other carbon accounting), we need to take more ambitious action. Rather than propping up fossil fuel consumption and production, we need to be pioneering research and investment in clean energy technology and jobs. Rather than shuffling money around within a shrinking aid budget, we need to provide increased assistance for climate adaptation.
In 2015, pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong
– Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau
Holding governments to account for the commitments they made in Paris, and helping them to go beyond them, will take action and advocacy from citizens, businesses and campaigners all around the world.
There's no doubt in my mind that people who love God, love their poor and vulnerable neighbours in the global village, and love all of God's good creation must be at the forefront of this movement.
Ben Thurley is the National Coordinator of Micah Australia.