International Unitarian Universalism

A Monumental Achievement: Unitarian Universalists at COP21

By Allison Hess

Climate change has become a huge focus in the last couple years, politically and socially. Some of us have been working on it much longer, but it’s inspiring to see the commitment spread to more people and gather more support. Even Beyoncé is involved, having starred in the Global Citizen’s Festival in New York City last summer, which highlighted the effect we all can have on the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This momentum is not without cause, as this past December, the United Nations hosted the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris, France. Over 38,000 delegates from 196 nations convened in Paris to discuss our collective environmental future. This gathering aimed to establish better accountability for the many different nations of the world who commit to the goals that they’ve signed on to. The document that concluded COP21, the Paris Agreement, was agreed upon by all 196 nations and is widely considered to be a huge milestone on the road to a sustainable, low-carbon future. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was proud to send six credentialed observers to this year’s climate talks through the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO). UUA representatives Rev. Peggy Clarke, Jan Dash, Lynn Dash, Doris Marlin, Bill McPherson, and David Tucker attended the conference to network, witness, and participate in the conference events. Here is their official statement:

Le Bourget, Paris, France

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We, the six undersigned officially credentialed observers to COP21of the Unitarian Universalist Association hereby make the following statement of support for The Paris Agreement on global climatechange adopted by all the member states of the United Nations: It has been a great and humbling honor here inParis to represent the Unitarian Universalist Association, witnessing what has become The Paris Agreement, one of the most remarkable international accords in history. As people of faith, we have been thrilled to be here with representatives of so many other faiths in the United States of America, and from all around the globe. We have been moved by the opportunity to participate in this international summit, attended by 196 nations, with people from every country each working on the same goal: To save life on Earth from the rampant and increasingly serious threats of global climate change, preserving the environment for ourselves, countless generations yet unborn, and all the other species with whom we share our home. The Paris Agreement on global climate change, while not perfect, represents a huge, unprecedented, and universal step forward in the fight against climate change. Never before has such a large number of countries, even at the founding of the United Nations itself, come together to reach such a complex, serious, constructive, and visionary agreement for the good of all people everywhere now and in the future. Now the hard work starts. We need to replace the "road to Paris" with the "superhighway from Paris" to implement the Paris Agreement. There are many opportunities that will lead us away from the fossil fuel economy to a new renewable energy future. It’s time we begin in this transition. Mitigation of climate change is also a social justice issue, and the Paris Agreement is an integral first step. If we deliver on implementing the Paris Agreement, we will have hope rather than fear for the next generation. In the spirit of the Unitarian Universalist principles, especially the First, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the Seventh, respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, we urge all Unitarian Universalists to do whatever they can in their daily lives, in their congregations, and in their wider communities, including interfaith work, to support this historic agreement.

Rev. Peggy Clarke

Jan Dash

Lynn Dash

Doris Marlin

Bill McPherson

David Tucker

COP21 UU-UNO panel

This UUA co-sponsored panel addressed How Nations Have and Should Consider Equity and Justice in Setting INDCs
Francois Hollande

French President Francois Hollande addresses an assembly at COP21.