Delivering a climate safe world that is better for all

In 2015, more than 190 countries and many thousands of non-state actors jointly resolved to safeguard and strengthen the social, environmental and economic fabric of life on our shared planet. Together we committed to manifesting a more prosperous, resilient and equitable world by 2030.  To be successful, we know emissions of greenhouse gases must begin a steady and steep decline by 2020, and that bending the curve of emissions any later would eliminate our chance to stay within 1.5°C, so important for preserving life.  At a 2°C rather than a 1.5° C rise in global temperature, heatwaves are 40% longer and heavy rainfall is 40% more intense. Freshwater declines by almost twice as much, maize production is down by twice as much and wheat by 40%.  We go from losing 90% of coral reefs to nearly all (98%).  We have no such right.

Mission 2020 is a commitment to do everything we can to not only drive down global emissions, but to do so at the urgent pace and massive scale required by science. It is an invitation for you and to our organizations to bring the necessary urgency and further on the ground difference to the work you are already doing.  What this moment of history demands of us is not a burden; it is an opportunity and duty.  By rising to the challenge, we can create more resilient, secure and fulfilling livelihoods; enjoy access to cleaner air and water, vital to our health; live in better buildings and more livable cities; spur innovation and improve our resource efficiency, creating new jobs, economic opportunities and growth; and regenerate the extraordinary ecosystems, communities, and cultures of care that make our planet rich. But when it comes to climate, timing is everything.  We need to step-up the pace of change, and we can do this, together!


Figure 1: Three illustrative scenarios for spending the same budget of 600 Gt CO2, with emissions peaking in 2016 (green), 2020 (blue) and 2025 (red), and an alternative with 800 Gt (dashed)


The role of the faith community in accelerating systemic change off of fossil fuels is crucial.  It is a moral call, for the benefit of all life and all humankind.  We are obliged to take this on and have the necessary impact over the next 2-3 years, turning our current situation around.

How can Catholics and the faith community help deliver Mission 2020?  This will involve us taking responsibility for the planet and the well-being of others in concrete ways.  It will require extending goals beyond ourselves (e.g., our buildings, the reach of our organizations) to change systems and take responsibility for what we are collectively producing and emitting to the atmosphere.

As people of faith we care about life and health for all – the ability of all to grow and flourish.  We realize we have been stealing from our children and future generations and impairing life, as we have polluted and used the air and water.  Our systems must shift to cleaner and less wasteful practices.  Above all, we must plan and find ways to get off of fossil fuels and shift to a more generative path.

We are committed to decisively turning around our culture and concrete situation, to face what we are doing and be walking in a different direction by 2020.  Our commitment to life and flourishing leaves no one out or flooded.  We are not writing off anyone or accepting that any places or home areas should be sacrificed or ruined.  Seeing, assessing, and acting, we will work toward the shifts we need to make, outlined in Mission 2020, the gospel, Laudato Si’, and our social teachings.

  1. Energy decarbonization and a rapid shift off fossil fuels. For the next several decades, we will need to reduce emissions by 50% each decade, faster in developed countries and urban areas.
    1. All new energy must be electric and renewable unless there are extenuating circumstances.  Existing coal plants should be scheduled for closure.
    2. We must transition our local energy system to renewables & lead that as people of faith.
    3. Where others can’t afford it, we will help them/us all make the shift together.
    4. We publicly state that the existing fossil fuel (& weapons) systems must be wound down and investments should be redirected to that which gives and does not destroy life
  1. Clean transportation and development for people and jobs
    1. We are taking on our brothers’ and sisters’ challenges around energy poverty and will
    2. Help deliver infrastructure and training for long-term healthy, clean energy solutions (PV training and development, e-bikes, more)
    3. All new local, public, and institutional investment in transport should be clean and healthful.  Affordable EVs and renewable energy are preferred for all new purchases.
    4. The common good and access for all are also key.  Shared vehicles and safer and better infrastructure for those walking and on bikes are preferred.
  1. Land (also livelihoods, food system) restoration. Caring for and restoring the land and sea, prairies and forests, re-building carbon sinks/sequestration as well as food
    1. Get to know the areas we live in and impact and the ways it has been cared for and managed over the long-term, as well as current cries and needs, degraded ecosystems and threats to biodiversity.
    2. Take on their protection, the security/extension of indigenous land rights and restoration of lands to ensure their ability to support life and sequester carbon
    3. Figure out how we can help restore and conserve degraded land, enhancing biodiversity and building ecosystem resilience by 2020 and prevent further destruction/deterioration.  Learn from original peoples’ values, land management and food production wisdom.
  1. Support earth friendly food practices. Improve agriculture, food and land use practices.  Extend permaculture.  Extend food sovereignty.  Reduce hunger.
  1. Improving our buildings and places, and efficiency of industry — building the common good instead of wasting assets. Make cities better places for people to live, work, and be community.
    1. Discover and build on the assets of our people and places. Do not tear down, unnecessarily.  All life and investments that have required life, thus far, are precious and we need to value, reinvest, and re-use, rather than discard, trash or throw away.
    2. Improve our cities and buildings and their livability for all. New buildings should be built to zero or near zero net energy standards, and we should upgrade at least 3% of building stock annually, learning from the best examples and ways.  Green retrofits can reduce building operating costs by 10% annually.
    3. Convey the Vatican and Laudato Si’s call to and the responsibility of business leaders.
    4. Commit to sharing with and enabling others in improvements they are trying to make. The bulk of future infrastructure and urban growth is expected in developing countries, where resources are often limited and at the same time there is great opportunity to leapfrog poor standards and apply high efficiency building and infrastructure practices for new structures.
    5. Local jobs, employing the unemployed, and sustainable manufacture of inputs are key.
  2. Shared investment/finance – being our brothers’ keeper
    1. Wind down fossil fuel industry, curtail investment in such activities and reallocate investment in renewable energy and generative investments for all, the common good.
    2. All institutions should develop and disclose a decarbonization strategy by 2020.
    3. Take on helping other communities reach their goals and implement available or appropriate technology. Just 0.2% of financial assets in equity appears to be enough (leveraged 5x with 2x capital gains and recycled 6x) and will produce 15x ROI, producing 20 m jobs and stopping climate change. (Sources: Wermuth Assoc., Causa Tagesspiegel, IPCC, Germanwatch, OECD, Stern, Kemfert (DIW), based on global GDP of 2015).  Renewables, electric cars and energy efficiency are now competitive.  Abundant cheap credit allows renewables roll out at scale to stop warming.  Products are available in all asset classes offering lower risks and better returns.
    4. Implement prices that include social and environmental costs. Address subsidy problems and costs (e.g., $10 million per minute cost of fossil fuel subsidies to the world, factoring in cost of damage from pollution and climate change — more than total spending on human health).  This may entail addressing money in politics, inequality and the extractive pattern of benefits for the top 1%.


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