Toward a Culture of Care: COP26 climate and policy issues

Gaël Giraud, SJ

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The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) takes place from October 31 to November 12, 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, UK. It was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Extreme climate events are becoming more numerous and intense and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group One has just published an alarming report. This conference, organized together with Italy, marks a crucial step in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. What can we expect?

On October 4, Pope Francis met with various religious leaders and scientists to sign a joint appeal ahead of COP26. The inspiration for this meeting, which was preceded by months of intense dialogue, was, in the terms of the appeal, “to raise awareness of the unprecedented challenges that threaten us and life on our beautiful common home […] and of the necessity of an even deeper solidarity in the face of the global pandemic and of growing concern for our common home.”[1]

During that meeting a strong convergence of the different religious and spiritual traditions present emerged concerning the urgent need for a change of course, a decisive and firm move away from the “culture of waste” that prevails in our societies, and toward a “culture of care.” How can COP26 become a step in this direction?

Context and climate management

In December 2015, the 196 parties present at COP21 adopted the Paris Agreement. Its main intent is to keep the increase in  global warming “well below 2°C” and to continue efforts to keep it at +1.5°C above the levels of two centuries ago, in order to achieve the ultimate goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  This is to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the Earth’s climate system.” To accomplish this, countries must cap and then decrease their greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve a balance between emissions and absorption in the second half of this century.[2] The fact that industrial carbon capture and storage techniques are likely to absorb only a marginal amount of the carbon released into the atmosphere  means that all humanity must aim for near-zero emissions by the last quarter of this century.

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