What Next?

Final COP 21 Reflection from Gary Payton


What next?


Advent…a time of reflection and waiting, and a time of anticipation for the Prince of Peace to enter our lives anew.  What an Advent Season it has been! 


On Monday, November 30, the day after the first Sunday in Advent, 150 presidents and prime ministers assembled in Paris to launch the Conference of the Parties, 21st Session (COP21). By December 6, the second Sunday of Advent, negotiators from 190 countries had narrowed the language for a climate change agreement.  Then, on the night of December 12, hours before the third Sunday of Advent, the Paris Agreement was gaveled into approval by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.  Around the world, people of faith knew that we humans had taken a major step in caring for God’s creation.   People from disparate nations, with different languages and cultures, shaped an historic agreement intended to slow the onrush of human-caused climate change, assist developing nations in adapting to impacts, and accelerate the transition to low carbon economies.


Now, in the final days of Advent, in a time of expectation, it is appropriate to ask “what next?”  How will the spirit of the Paris Agreement find ways of being lived out in the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?

–       Might we as individuals and children of God find new ways to live more lightly on the Earth?  Will we examine our patterns of consumption, our frequency and manner of transportation – particularly transportation requiring the burning of fossil fuels?

–       Might the content and the publicity around COP21 create new energy within our Earth Care Congregations?  Might the aspirations of the agreement inspire members elsewhere for their own congregation to become an Earth Care congregation?

–       Will the agreement make us more sensitive to the issues of eco-justice, particularly climate justice of the poor, for women, for indigenous peoples?

–       Will the powerful presence of youth and young adults in Paris serve as an inspiration for more engagement by Presbyterian youth and young adults in creation care?

–        As individuals or congregations or the denomination, will we be more bold in engaging elected officials on issues of the environment?  Will we tell our members of Congress to support the Green Climate Fund, the mechanism in the Paris Agreement to assist developing countries to adapt to climate change impacts.

–       Will we find new ways to join hands with other people of faith in protecting Creation?

–       And, how will the spirit of the Paris Agreement guide the discernment and actions on the environment  at the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon  (June 18-25)?


The Paris Agreement represents a milestone in decades of work by government officials, scientists, people of faith, and environmental activists.  It adds momentum to the collective efforts to address the causes and impacts of climate change.  Now, we ask “what’s next?”   Together, we will answer in small and in large ways. Me?  My next small step is to offset the carbon emissions of my flight to and from France through a contribution to Climate Stewards, and then to keep telling the story.  What’s yours?


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