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United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen December 2009

Posted on: February 18, 2010 11:04 AM
Related Categories: acen, UN Office

Canon Jeff Golliher, Anglican UN Office Program Consultant for the Environment and Sustainable Development, has provided the following summary report. The official in-depth report from the Anglican Observer’s delegation is in preparation.

In December 2009, the Anglican Observer at the UN, Ms Hellen Wangusa, sent a delegation of six Anglicans to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. The delegation comprised Eliud Njeru Njiru (Kenya, representing the Anglican Communion Environmental Network), the Rev Canon Grace Kaiso (General Secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa), Marco Lutaya (Uganda, representing the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations [AUNO]), Anna Gula (USA, representing AUNO), Albert Gyan (Gambia and USA, an independent consultant to the World Bank and advisor to AUNO), and the Rev Canon Jeff Golliher (USA, AUNO’s Program Consultant for the Environment and Sustainable Development), who led the group.

The purpose of the Anglican presence was to advocate on behalf of the Anglican Communion and its Provinces at the Conference. The Anglican Communion was additionally well represented at nearly every level of the church, from the most prominent leadership to local parish priests and lay persons. Governmental leaders and NGO participants heard prominent sermons and addresses from the Archbishop Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, who energized thousands of participants by their calls for “climate justice”.

The UN Conference did not fulfill the hopes of most of the world, especially of developing and least-developed countries who are most severely affected by climate change. This is a serious problem that speaks to the heart of climate justice concerns. The official report of Anglican Observer’s delegation, which is forthcoming, will discuss this in greater detail; but here a few points can be made. First, it should go without saying that agreements on reducing carbon emissions must be made very soon. Second, financial commitments made to the developing and least developing nations, who desperately need assistance, were far from sufficient.

Despite this, the delegation felt that actual debates - among governments and NGOs - were exceptionally clear, well-informed, and cognizant of the depth and severity of the climate change crisis. The problem was not an inadequate understanding of the issues, as much as a lack of political will. Formidable environmental, economic, and ethical issues regarding the ‘cap and trade’ system[1] were thoroughly vented, at least among participating NGOs. However, the delegation was troubled by the Conference’s inability to come to terms with the necessity of ‘capping’ carbon emissions on the one hand, and its encouragement of carbon ‘trading’, on the other. This was especially evident in the nearly universal support of one part of the negotiations, known as ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries’ (REDD). The concern is that the UN and Member States will promote another financially lucrative scheme, similar to derivative trading, that will not actually curtail deforestation or reduce carbon emissions.

In the meantime, the ministry of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations will continue to advocate on behalf of the Anglican Communion in all areas of climate justice, including the moral responsibility to provide sufficient assistance (financial and otherwise) to developing and least developed nations who face serious disadvantages in making the transition to renewable energy, and shortages and disruptions in food and water supplies as a result of climate change. Our goal is to promote community-based, gender equitable programs in sustainable development that will truly serve the interests of developing countries.

We would like to thank all our delegates to Copenhagen. They made a long journey and graciously set aside time from their work at home. Their contribution to the Anglican Communion and the UN Conference is greatly appreciated. We would also like to thank The Trinity Grants Program for a generous travel grant that made the participation of our delegates possible.

January 2010

1. A ‘cap and trade’ system is a market-based approach intended to control pollution. It allows companies or governments to trade emissions allowances under an overall cap, or limit, on those emissions.