The Heads of Delegation at CoP21.

Creating Coherence to Combat Climate Change

I was recently having lunch with a colleague from my past life working in international development and, given my novelty with the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs, the conversation inevitably came around to how I was enjoying my new role and coping with the transition. Beyond the standard topics such as adjusting to new office dynamics and understanding the requirements of a new role, the conversation interestingly came around to the concept of coherence.

We discussed the extent to which people compartmentalize their lives — keeping their personal and professional lives separate, dividing spare time into family, hobby, relaxation blocks and pigeon holing their spiritual nourishment into an hour or two per week. Afterward, I felt exceedingly fortunate that I work in a job which combines my professional interests and my spiritual beliefs but I also started reflecting more broadly on the concept of coherence in the context of climate change.

Climate change is recognized as a complex challenge which will necessitate changes in our scientific, economic, political, societal, moral and ethical frameworks. As such, a coherent response to a changing climate is essential. This is a simple point and has been acknowledged by many. However, the implementation of such coherence — the forming of a unified whole — is a significant task.

It is imaginable that the construction of such coherence will involve attempts to form collaborative partnerships across sectors, redefine growth paradigms, integrate the delivery of public and private financing and, ultimately, put in place a consultative process between governments, the private sector, civil society and others to build consensus as to how such coherence should look and what it should accomplish. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, is the creation of personal coherence — reflecting on how the requirements of a changing climate will influence our personal moral and ethical decisions.

While certainly conceptual, there is a growing list of real world examples of the coherence being built in the fight against climate change. I was struck that this week sees two excellent examples of this growing coherence.

On the international level, Friday April 22nd marks the first day that the Paris Agreement (arising out of CoP21 held in December 2015) will be open for signature, an important first step in the process of ensuring that the Agreement enters into legal force. Highlighting the importance of this period, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, will host a special signing ceremony on April 22nd at U.N. headquarters, inviting representatives of all countries to sign the Paris Agreement.

On a more individual level, this week also sees the unfoldment of Faith Climate Action Week, spearheaded by Interfaith Power & Light. This nine day period (April 15th to 24th) focused on “Paris and Beyond” seeks to support people of faith in understanding how achieving the climate protection goals in the Paris Agreement requires action from all of us. Faith Climate Action Week will see dozens of events — sermons, movie screenings, conferences, children’s activities, picnics, etc — taking place in at least 37 states, many being brought about by a single individual organizer who is striving to champion climate action within their respective faith tradition.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that the reason both of these events are taking place at this time of the year is because of Earth Day, the event that for almost half a century has been drawing attention to environmental issues and motivating people to action.

For many of us, the topics of environment, nature and climate change can connote doom, gloom and the unachievable. However, for me, and many others, the recognition of increasing levels of coherence — at both the individual and institutional levels — in our global response to climate change is both a motivation to continued action and a reassurance that the stabilization of our shared climate can be achieved.

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