Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach Blog Center

Hope for Climate Action by the U.S. and China

Emily Van Etten, Environmental Justice Intern
A busy street in China, one of fifteen countries where Columban priests and lay missionaries serve.

A busy street in China, one of fifteen countries where Columban priests and lay missionaries serve.

On November 12, the United States and China made a joint agreement to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases. While many were quick to criticize this pact as a political photo opportunity for President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping, we can see it is more than that. It is a sign these governments are moving forward on climate action. It holds great promise for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru in December, where world leaders will discuss concrete emission reduction goals.

In the join agreement, China pledged to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 and set a goal of increasing the use of non-fossil fuels to 20 percent of the country’s energy mix by that year. The United States pledged to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Some climate activists are adamant that both countries should be making greater commitments, as even with these promises the U.S. and China will still be emitting more than half of the global greenhouse gases. But we have to start somewhere. This agreement demonstrates a great level of collaboration between these two countries and it can pressure other nations who have yet to speak on the issue to take action.

As Bill McKibbin of explains, it’s also a reminder that movements work. Americans made their voices heard through the People’s Climate March, and Chinese citizens are crying out over smog and air pollution in their cities.

One of the main tenets of Catholic Social Teaching is care for creation. Therefore, as Catholics we are called to support this global climate revolution. As Columban Father Tommy Murphy said, “Global warming has been called the greatest moral issue facing us this century. We cannot simply stand by and do nothing.”

Keep writing to your representatives, encouraging them to support legislation which limits carbon emissions and promotes sustainability. (Click here to send a letter to Congress.) Keep praying for our world leaders as they discuss how to mitigate and adapt to climate change at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Peru. (Click here to find a vigil near you or join an online vigil.) Together our prayers will give hope and our voice will guide the way.