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Faiths applaud "unprecedented global consensus" on climate change action at COP22

Posted on: November 21, 2016 2:11 PM
The Revd Fletcher Harper, a priest of the US-based Episcopal Church and executive director of GreenFaith, speaks about faiths, foundations and finance during a side event at the COP22 UN climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco.
Photo Credit: Ryan RoderickBeiler / Lutheran World Federation

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Last year’s Paris agreement on climate change is “irreversible and unstoppable”, the world’s political leaders said as they met in Marrakech for this year’s climate change conference (COP22). As they gathered, a significant number of Anglican leaders signed a joint inter-faith statement describing the agreement as an “unprecedented global consensus.”

“The landmark Paris Agreement set the course and the destination for global climate action,” the UN’s Patricia Espinosa, executive Secretary of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, said. “Here in Marrakesh, governments underlined that this shift is now urgent.”

Amongst the agreements reached in Morocco, 47 of some of the world’s poorest states that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, pledged to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

The governments at the COP22 talks agreed to bring forward the writing of the “rule book” which would put the Paris agreement into action; and also “a significant boost of transparency of action, including for measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer.”

The inter-faith statement, signed by around 298 faith leaders from 50 countries, called on nations to justly manage the transition to a low carbon economy and urged a significant shift of investment from fossil fuels into renewable energy sources.

In it, the faith leaders ask states to uphold the obligations in the preamble of the Paris Agreement. In particular, they say: “we appeal to states to uphold their obligations on human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, a just transition, food security and intergenerational equity.

“We stress that the full and equal participation of women, indigenous societies and youth in addressing climate change will accelerate efforts towards a low carbon economy and significantly contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, that aims to end energy poverty by 2030.”

And they call on organisations, including from faith communities, “for more commitments to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy and targeted engagement with companies on climate change.

“We need to ground this work in pursuing a just transition to renewable energy.”

The letter was signed by a number of Anglican leaders, including Nicholas Drayson, the bishop of Northern Argentina in the Province of South America; Dr Lyn Arnold, chair of the Church of Australia’s Public Affairs Commission; Mark MacDonald, the bishop for indigenous peoples for the Church of Canada; Thomas Oommen, the Bishop of Madhya Kerala in the united Church of South India; Dr Agnes Aboum, moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and a member of the Church of Kenya; and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Church of Southern Africa and the chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN).

“There is urgent need to scale up action on climate change as it is very negatively impacting on the very poor,” the Bishop of Bunyoro-Kitara, Nathan Kyamanywa, from the Church of Uganda, said. “Right now, many people in Uganda are dying of famine, drought, floods and storms. The seasons are erratic and unreliable.”

The Bishop of California in the US-based Episcopal Church, Marc Andrus, said that “all those who live on the Earth at this moment in time have been given the greatest possibility of being agents of transformation for future generations.

“To live into this possibility we must act on three levels: at the level of nations; at sub-national levels (cities, regions, religious bodies); and as individuals.

“At all three levels of action we must see the historic Paris Agreement of 2015 as a starting point, not as a static goal, and we must aspire to deeper, broader, more creative efforts.”

He continued: “the foundation of all our work in engaging climate change is spiritual – let the religious and spiritual traditions of the Earth bring our greatest spiritual values to bear in this crucial effort.”

The Bishop of Kingston in the Church of England’s diocese of Southwark, Dr Richard Cheetham, said that “care for the environment is one of the biggest moral and existential issues of our time. Combined and determined action for good stewardship of our planet earth is a central tenet of Christian faith.”

And the inaugural convenor of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), Bishop George Browning from the Church of Australia, commented: “We live in a relational world. Humans must learn to live within their limits, as well as their aspirations.

“Not to understand our limits is to court disaster. Being environmentally responsible is core business to people of faith and is ethically non-negotiable.”

Out of the 198 states that were party to the Paris Agreement, 112 have ratified it. The agreement passed its ratification threshold on 5 October this year and it came into legal force on 4 November. Next year’s Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) will be hosted by Fiji, but held in Bonn, Germany.