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Montana Burgess — Faith in the Paris climate summit

Montana Burgess stands at the entrance of the conference center in Paris front of the Canadian pillar, among the UN state pillar flags.

The world is watching to see what comes out of the Paris climate summit.

Montana Burgess is the West Kootenay EcoSociety's Community Organizer.

She's attending the Paris UN climate summit with the Climate Action Network delegation and is reporting back to the West Kootenays on developments at the negotiations and what they could mean for Canada and our region.

Montana Burgess has been writing a blog of her account in France, providing insights into what the developments could mean for the West Kootenay region and its citizens.


We’re heading into the final days of the Paris UN climate summit. The final days will be long for everyone. Remember those grueling days during exam week in college where you crammed, drank too much coffee, ate cafeteria food, and hardly slept? It’s like that but you do it in a suit.
 
The big Canadian news is that Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, made a reference on Sunday night that we should be striving to a goal of limiting global warming by no more than 1.5 degree C by the end of this century. Civil society and vulnerable countries around the world have been demanding this for years.

This is a big deal; the difference between half a degree of warming will mean the survival for millions of vulnerable people and cultures around the world as well as many plant and animals species, all part of the food web, not going extinct. Going past this global warming will mean the extreme weather we had in 2015 with drought, little snow, and forest fires will be normal.
 
While this acknowledgement of the importance of not going past 1.5 C warming is important, Canada has not put forward new carbon pollution reduction goals since Trudeau took over as Prime Minister. We can’t live in a world where global warming has taken us beyond 1.5 degrees C if all countries, including Canada, don’t do their fair share in cutting the pollution and helping developing countries adapt to impacts and develop renewable energy solutions.

Here, in Paris, Canada needs to get ambitious and commit to reviewing and increasing their commitment to reduce carbon pollution significantly before 2020. If Canada made that promise and helped shape the technical discussions around how to do that in an international climate agreement, this would indeed show Canada is climate leader under the Trudeau government and is not following business as usual and simply justing greenwashing words.
 
While the hard work continues in the meeting rooms and corridors through the Paris conference center, people around the world aren’t waiting. I sat down with a friend yesterday at the conference center, Joy Kennedy, in Justice and Peace, with the Canadian Council of Churches.

She told me all about the inspiring interfaith gatherings that have taken place over the past week in Paris. On the weekend she stood with pilgrims who walked from Rome to Paris and with the indigenous leaders from “the Arctic to the Amazon” who paddled down the Seine and demanded leaders agree to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
 
The faith community gathers tonight in Paris for a celebration and to continue their work in mobilizing people around the world to take climate action in their faith communities. I’m so proud of the efforts of our very own faith groups in Castlegar and Nelson and the strong community ready to take climate action.
 
In Castlegar, a six-week interfaith discussion group on climate action resulted in the November 29 climate march, which that group organized. Nelson’s interfaith community also organized discussion groups and now daily vigils are scheduled <http://www.ecosociety.ca/NelsonParisClimateVigils>  throughout the Paris climate summit.

People of all faiths have been coming together to send prayers and intentions for a successful global agreement to tackle the climate crisis. The vigils have been hosted by different faith groups and led in their respective faith traditions.

At any given vigil there have been up to 30 people coming together and many of the same people return each week, which shows that there is a significant commitment from our interfaith community on climate action.

The Catholic Church in Nelson is feeling particularly connected to the Catholics in Paris and this international moment as its cathedral is a replica of the Madeline Cathedral in Paris.
 
As I order another coffee and consider how I should have ironed my shirt this morning, I’m feeling hopeful about this week. I feel the love from the interfaith community in the Kootenays and have been proudly sharing stories of this work with my colleagues at the summit.

Canada can show their leadership even with a new government. So pray, meditate, or go for a walk in nature and ponder how our community is going to transition to 100% renewable energy to tackle the climate crisis, regardless of what comes out of Paris next week.