[ACNS] Around 50 pilgrims have set off from central London this morning at the start of a 200-mile journey to Paris where they will call on world leaders from 190 nations at the UN Climate Change Conference – COP21 – to agree “a fair, ambitious and binding” agreement on tackling climate change.
The London-to-Paris pilgrimage, organised by the Church of England, Christian Aid, Tearfund and Cafod, is one of a number of similar pilgrimages taking place throughout Europe as churches continue to put pressure on global politicians to achieve a good deal for the world’s poor.
“We walk in solidarity for climate justice for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We are all aware of the impact of climate change and we cannot be the first generation to knowingly turn away from our responsibilities to protect the planet,” the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, told the pilgrims and a congregation of supporters at a service in St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, before the pilgrimage got underway.
“These 50 pilgrims are highlighting the need for those involved in the climate change talks to reach an agreement that moves us towards a fairer, low-carbon future at Paris and beyond,” he said.
Last month, a different group of pilgrims set off from Rome to Paris in a pilgrimage organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance. Earlier this month they reached the WCC’s ecumenical centre in Zurich, Switzerland, where they held a panel discussion about the approach that faith communities are making to COP21.
“All panellists agreed that COP21 will just be a relevant milestone in the longer journey for climate justice”, Dr Guillermo Kerber, the WCC’s officer for climate justice and creation, commented. He said that the “mobilization of faith communities, such as the various pilgrimages and fast for the climate campaign, contribute to raising awareness and involving more people to address the climate crisis.”
The pilgrimages and faith groups will meet up in Paris with the UN’s executive secretary of Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, and will hand in petitions that have been drawn up in a number of different countries.
They will also participate in the mass mobilisation through the centre of Paris, ensuring the Church has a strong voice in and around the talks.
“After months of hard work we are now on our way,” James Buchanan, organiser of the London to Paris pilgrimage said. “This morning’s service is a reminder of what is at stake at the upcoming UN Climate Change conference, and we can’t wait to add our voice.
“There is no planet B so please do join us on this journey to Paris for climate justice.”
Pilgrims will be staying in churches and in the houses of church members along the route, following in a centuries-old tradition.