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Interfaith Action and the Historic Climate Agreement

Interfaith Action and the Historic Climate Agreement

History was made in Paris last Saturday when 196 countries approved an agreement that has the potential to change the course of climate change. For the first time, both developing and developed countries from around the world joined together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote resiliency and limit global temperature rise. In addition to world leaders, environmentalists, and activists, faith leaders from many different traditions gathered at the conference to provide a moral voice for action on climate.

Climate change impacts human health and security, something the faith community has strongly advocated for. As our Jewish tradition teaches, we must be responsible stewards of the earth, commanded to “till and to tend” (Genesis 2:15) and that “if there is a needy person among you…you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient” (Deuteronomy 15:7). Therefore, in addition to advocating for climate action, we as an interfaith community advocated for an agreement that supports the most vulnerable populations from the dangerous impacts of climate change.

Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has encouraged for the faith voice in presenting climate change as “one of the greatest humanitarian issues of our time.” This conference had a large gathering of faithful advocates from many different religious backgrounds and traditions, including Liya Rechtman, a former Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center and current Manager of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. She spoke of the importance of the faith community because, “we recognize that the fight for climate justice comes from a place of love for all humankind.”

Below are some important goals that were achieved in this agreement as the faith community advocated for climate action that promoted sustainability, justice and stewardship:

Limiting Temperature Rise

Negotiators agreed to limit global temperatures not just below 2 degrees Celsius as previously discussed six years ago in Copenhagen, but rather aim to limit warming to just 1.5 C.

Adaptation Financing

Although no specific dollar amounts were determined, the agreement requires developed countries help developing countries with energy adaptation projects. Furthermore, Secretary Kerry announced that the United States would double its adaptation financing to $800 million, a major step for the United States to acknowledge our contribution to both creating and solving the problems of climate change. 


Although there are no repercussions for countries that do not achieve their emissions pledges, transparency rules in the agreement encourage countries to uphold their pledges. Implementing a system for countries to report emissions and efforts to reduce them is a key component in creating trust among the nations.

Ability to Increase targets

The agreement states that all countries will submit a new national determined contribution to reduce emissions every five years. The new pledge should represent an improvement and therefore promotes increased ambition over time. This processes is extremely important, because current pledges are not strong enough to achieve the goal of 1.5 degrees C or even 2 degrees.

Although much has been achieved to promote climate justice, there is more work to be done in order to ensure that we continue to work toward the goals agreed upon in Paris. The faith community will continue to unite and share our support of sustainable and equitable strategies to fight climate change. Learn more by watching an interfaith webinar, hosted by the WISC-Energy and Environment Working Group on Friday, December 18 to hear stories, insights, and next steps from some of the faith delegates who attended the conference.


Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman