Sunday, 29 May 2022

COP26

COP26

In 1995 the United Nations initiated the first global climate summit. Since then, 26 such summits took place, with the last one being in Glasgow from 31st October till 12th November 2021. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is a conference for world leaders, negotiators, scientists, climate activist, and anyone who is interested in the topic of climate change and how to keep global warming at bay. COP21 in 2015 in Paris brought the first tangible results. 196 negotiating parties committed themselves to limiting global warming to well below two degrees. But of course, much more needs to be done, and regular conferences are needed in order to make further progress.

Glasgow Churches Together have seen last year's summit as an opportunity to speak about the topic on behalf of the churches, and to accompany the conference with reflection and prayer.

A service to mark COP26 took place on Sunday 7th November 2021, 4pm at Glasgow Cathedral, and I was privileged to represent the Moravian Church of the British Province at this service.

I travelled so that I could be in Glasgow on Sunday morning in order to take the atmosphere of the city in, and to witness the voices of those who had messages related to COP26.

I entered a very colourful city with people from all walks of life. There were singers. The lyrics of most of the songs were about justice, dreams and love. There were stalls with loads of information on climate change, campaigns and initiatives. There were small and bigger groups of people, some of whom were preparing for demonstrations and eventually marching on with banners to the sound of shouted slogans and often drums. There were people just going about their business, and carrying heavy shopping bags. And there were more police men and women than I have ever seen before. It was a peaceful but energetic atmosphere.

What I noticed very soon was that people addressed many different topics, apart from climate change, such as plastic pollution, waste management (or the lack of it), fast fashion, corruption, colonialism, governance, justice and peace. This is something I definitely learnt anew, that all these things are interconnected.

I was reminded of what the World Council of Churches already addressed at its assembly in Vancouver in 1983: we need to focus on justice, peace and the integrity of creation. This was formulated as a response to a situation of crisis: arms race, worldwide injustice and severe mistreatment of our planet. The physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich of WeizsŠcker sharpened this focus by saying: 'there is no justice without peace and integrity of creation, there is no peace without justice and integrity of creation and there is no integrity of creation without peace and justice.'

Yes, although climate change is widely seen as the single most severe threat to the world, it is clearly interlinked with so many other issues.

Last year, at the end of October and in November it was noticeable that the news items focused on the different and interlinked aspects described above. Here are some examples of headings from the BBC: 'COP26: Fossil fuel industry has largest delegation at climate summit'; 'Climate change: Huge toll of extreme weather disasters in 2021'; 'British waste dumped in Romania', (according to Greenpeace 'A whopping 1.8 million kilos of UK plastic waste is dumped in other countries every single day').

And from the ARD, a German TV Station: 'Atacama Desert in Chile - dump for fast fashion'; 'Brazil - floods in Bahia'; 'German arms exports: Baerbock insists on stricter controls', (I often wonder how much all the deadly military machinery in the world contributes to climate change!); 'Drought in Africa - life-threatening'.

Sadly, soon after COP26 these topics disappeared largely from the main headlines.

We must never forget that behind each report there are real people, often the most vulnerable, who suffer most. We have to re-learn what the fourth century Christian philosopher, Lactantius, already knew, 'the whole point of justice consists precisely in our providing for others through humanity what we provide for our own family through affection.'

The ecumenical service at Glasgow Cathedral provided a wonderful space for prayer, reflection, meditation, music, art and meeting others. Christians from many different denominations came together, being one in their concern for all of creation, acknowledging that we have failed to be God's ambassadors in this world, that we need to put wholeness for the whole of creation before profit, and that striving for justice for everyone, in the awareness of God's presence has to be paramount.

The preacher, Rev Dr Susan Henry-Crowe (Methodist Church), reflected on Psalm 23. What is needed? Divine guidance and provision (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want). Stopping, reflecting and also listening to those who are often ignored (He leads me beside quiet waters), mourning with those who mourn (Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death), and eventually noticing God's new dawn on the horizon (You prepare a table before me). This table may be at times a negotiating table. But there is space for everyone!

Br Joachim Kreusel
Minister at Ockbrook Moravian Church and Leicester Moravian Church

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