Nations, interfaith community reaffirm commitment to cut carbon emissions

Nations, interfaith community reaffirm commitment to cut carbon emissions

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Nations worldwide convened Nov. 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco, to hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement in a shift toward implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” reads the Marrakesh Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development issued at the close of the 22nd Conference fo the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“We welcome the Paris Agreement … its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation.”

In December 2015, world governments and officials met in France to reach a historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions and arrest global warming. Since then, 111 countries, including the United States have signed the Paris Agreement, which went into effect on Nov. 4.

The agreement calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and at present, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.

The proclamation calls for strong solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; for all parties to strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture; to close the gap between current emissions trajectories and the pathway needed to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement; and for an increase in the volume, flow and access to finance for climate projects, alongside improved capacity and technology, including from developed to developing countries.

“The Marrakesh Proclamation declares ‘irreversible momentum on climate,’ we now pray and discern our way to take part in this momentum,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, who attended the United Nations climate conference in Marrakesh as an Episcopal delegate representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“The Episcopal Church has an ecumenical and interfaith stance that impels us to work on building vibrant relationships with other denominations of Christianity and with other religions – again, we can ask what this diverse, complicated and increasingly integrated set of relationships offers to climate action.”

An interfaith climate statement signed by close to 300 religious leaders from 50 countries was presented Nov. 16 to a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team. The interfaith statement calls on nations to justly manage the transition to a low carbon economy and urges governments to shift trillions of dollars of investments in fossil fuels into renewable energy, goals in line with the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The United States is the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, which trap heat in the atmosphere and make the planet warmer.

The Nov. 8 election of Donald J. Trump as the next U.S. president cast a pall over the climate conference, as he has vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and curb the country’s commitment to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The president-elect has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.”

“In the first week, the general pulse of the COP gathering was one of shock, denial, grief and anguish when the results of the U.S. elections became known. It was characterized by gloom, even tears, as many felt that the hard work that had been done was just about to go down the tubes,” said Lynnaia Main, global partnerships officer for the Episcopal Church and its liaison to the United Nations, who also attended the conference on behalf of the presiding bishop.

The mood, however, began to change at the start of the second week, she said, “we began to hear signs of hope and reaffirmation of the willingness to remain together and push forward on climate action.”

For instance, said Main, faith-based groups in attendance at the conference pledged to continue their work, with a focus on city and state governments and at the global level; while continuing to engage with the U.S. government.

“These smaller actors have the potential to make big strides in curbing emissions, and as advocates, we can plug into this potential through urging local structures to play their part in the international climate effort,” said Jayce Hafner, the Episcopal Church’s domestic policy analyst based in Washington, D.C., and a member of Curry’s delegation.

On Nov. 16, major corporations and investors called on President Barack Obama and president-elect Trump, to continue low-carbon policies and investments, and to stay committed to the Paris Agreement.

On Nov. 18, Trump announced three cabinet picks, all on the record as climate deniers. That same day, some of the world’s poorest countries strengthened their pledges to move toward renewables to meet 100 percent of their energy needs.

For its part, the Episcopal Church engages in environmental and climate justice advocacy using as a basis resolutions passed by the Church’s General Convention and its Executive Council, which in 2008 adopted support for the Church’s long-term carbon neutral goals.

The 2015 General Convention passed legislation to create a task force on climate change, which will provide resources that parishes can use to “green” their churches and educate members on what they can do to address climate change in their everyday lives.

“As the Episcopal Church mobilized in the early years of this century to embrace and forward the United Nations goals to reduce extreme poverty globally, so we can work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and governmental bodies to create a sustainable world,” said Andrus, at the close of the climate conference in Marrakesh.

“The Episcopal Church has enormous resources – chief among them are what [Holocaust survivor and filmmaker] Pierre Sauvage called ‘weapons of the spirit’ – prayer and our spiritual values, the sacraments, the Scriptures, the Body of the faithful, and the Holy Spirit. All of these spiritual realities inform and support our action in the world – finance, advocacy, ‘greening the Church,’ resistance, solidarity, protest.”

Many Episcopal churches have installed solar panels. And this year, Church Divinity School of the Pacific installed the largest solar panel grid of any theological institution in the country.

The Diocese of North Dakota is working on an energy sustainability project in its seven native ministries and congregations, including churches on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, near where protesters have for more the six months opposed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. Andrus recently joined more than 540 clergy and lay leaders in a day of solidarity and witness with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.