Advent Reflection: 

In Paris, waiting for light (with hope)

Mary Minette, Interim Advocacy Director

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:3-5). 

In Advent, Christians wait for the light of Christ, lighting candles and speaking of hope.

This Advent, light has multiple layers of meaning for me as I sit in Paris watching, hoping and working for a new global agreement to address climate change.

Paris is frequently referred to as the City of Light, but this December it’s a city emerging from the darkness of the recent terrorist attacks that left more than 100 people dead. In the last few days I’ve seen Parisians going about their daily business—shopping, sitting in cafes, walking their children to school in the morning, hurrying home at the end of the day with baguettes and groceries. There are a lot of armed police and security guards—standing on street corners, in the metro stations, in big department stores filled with Christmas shoppers—but people seem determined to go on with their ordinary lives and their preparations for the holidays. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

In the vast complex in the Paris suburbs that houses the climate talks, signs of hope and light are faint but present: countries may disagree, but they are talking. Every few days a new draft text comes out and there are fewer “brackets” (which are placed around disputed phrases) and greater consensus. I came into the meeting with many questions. Will leaders only agree to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius or can they agree to a more ambitious and safer 1.5 degrees? Is their goal of raising $100 million per year in financial assistance for developing countries even possible? How often will countries review their national emissions reduction commitments? All of these issues were still up in the air after more than a year of negotiations.

But talks seem to be coalescing around common points of agreement, and hope is growing that an agreement that will move us toward a cleaner shared future is possible. 

Last week, African heads of state gathered here to announce the African Renewable Energy Initiative to develop at least 10 gigawatts of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and at least 300 gigawatts by 2030, potentially making the continent, which is now one of the most energy impoverished regions, the cleanest in the world. The African Development Bank and other financial institutions, including the World Bank, pledged an initial $5 billion to support the initiative. On Monday, the group of seven advanced economies (G7) and the European Union pledged an additional $10 billion in grants and loans to support this plan.

“The light shines in the darkness .…”

 At the beginning of the talks, the list of remaining issues was long. As the days pass, those issues are beginning to find solutions. An agreement from Paris will not solve every problem faced by God’s creation, but it moves us closer to a more hope-filled future. Today we expect a new, more streamlined draft from the French leaders of the Conference of the Parties. I am hopeful that this momentum will continue and that the negotiations will end with a strong agreement to tackle the challenge of climate change.

“… and the darkness did not overcome it.”