CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns, Sophie Dodgeon, gives us the lowdown on what to watch out for in the year ahead – and explains why 2015 is such a crucial year for action on climate change.
1. It’s a year to say goodbye. In 2015, we reach the end of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Millennium Development Goals. Both are UN processes which set targets for governments to meet.
The Kyoto Protocol covered carbon emissions, and the Millennium Development Goals gave a global framework to measure progress on ending poverty – from improving access to education to reducing the number of women dying in childbirth.
2. It’s a year to make a new start. The end of past agreements means the pressure is on this year to set new goals and agreements to spur us on into the future.
In September, all eyes will be on New York, where there will be a major UN summit to agree a set of new Sustainable Development Goals. How far climate change is recognised in the new goals is still being negotiated. CAFOD is already involved, getting our overseas partners’ concerns heard at the highest level.
Next is Paris. By the end of 2015, all countries need to agree how they will cut carbon emissions and what collective action they will take to respond to the impact of changes in the climate (for instance, what funding they will provide to enable developing countries to cope with adapting to change).
Each country will make a pledge saying what they will do about climate change. The UK will pledge as part of the European Union.
Discussions have already started; some of the main pledges are expected to be agreed by March. The global deal itself needs to be thrashed out at a fortnight-long meeting called the COP 21 (Conference of the Parties) in Paris in December 2015.
For the sake of the communities that we work with, the deal needs to be ambitious, binding and fair to the poorest people.
3. It’s election year. In case you hadn’t already noticed, politicians and the media are already full of pledges, promises, polls and predictions. And it’s still five months until election day on 7 May. Whether or not politicians of all parties hear about the importance of tackling poverty and climate change depends on us. Check out our election materials for questions to ask when you’re meeting with or contacting your local candidates.
4. It’s the year a new parliament begins. Even if you don’t have a new MP in your constituency, there will be a new parliament and dozens of new MPs in place after the general election in May. And what better way to welcome them, than to turn up on their doorstep a few weeks later for a chat about climate change?
We’re part of the Climate Coalition mass lobby of parliament on 17 June. It’s called Speak Up For The Love Of… and involves thousands of people joining together in a day of celebration, action and inspiration. Sign up to Speak Up For The Love Of… and find out more.
5. This year, we can start a chain reaction. You may think that the influence of the UK is small among the 196 countries involved in the climate talks. But the UK has previously played a leading international role on climate change, and has the potential to do so again this year. If the UK pushes for a strong pledge for action within the EU, then the EU’s pledge could encourage other countries to make ambitious pledges as well.
6. It’s a year of inspiration. Bishops from every continent have called “on all Catholics and people of goodwill to engage on the road to Paris as a starting point for a new life in harmony with Creation respecting planetary boundaries.” And Pope Francis’ expected encyclical on human ecology will provide new opportunities to act and reflect on the relationship between the environment and human flourishing. Reflect on Church teaching on creation and justice.
7. Momentum is growing. For CAFOD, this campaign has only just started. We have lots to do. Last year saw some significant steps, including the launch of our One Climate, One World campaign, with thousands of CAFOD supporters taking action across England and Wales, and joining over half a million people around the world in the biggest-ever international climate rally. If our movement is to succeed, we need to keep growing. Order posters, action guides, postcards, a short talk and prayers to share with others.
But 2015 really matters because it comes before 2016. One year can’t solve everything. Neither can one person, one country or one organisation. There is a lot to play for this year. But for the sake of our sisters and brothers around the world – many of whom already live with the consequences of climate change – we need to keep our eyes fixed beyond 2015.
It’s just one year. But what we do this year will make new things possible in 2016, 2017 and all the years ahead.
Whether we see giant steps forward at the Paris talks, or a disappointing impasse, we need to keep up the pressure for action for years to come. We know that to respond to such a challenge will take the biggest movement for change we’ve ever seen. I hope you will be part of it.