Creation Care

COP28 and the Spirit of Collaboration and Transformation 

January 5, 2024
Creation Care

by Dr. Delia Heck

The experience of COP28 was like drinking out of a water tanker, overwhelming and yet extremely satisfying. The pace of change for so long has seemed glacial and yet two things happened this year that were unexpected: Loss and Damage was funded and there was agreement that the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels. Why did this happen?  

COP 28 President Al Jaber said in his  closing remarks, “We became the first COP to host a change-makers majlis (MAHJ-liss),” “And I felt that that was the turning point in our negotiations. You reconnected with your spirit of collaboration, you got out of your comfort zones and started speaking to each other from the heart.”

Despite the weaker language, the loopholes, the discordance between COP28 and the location in Dubai with a President who is the head of a major oil company, I agree that it does have to do with the human heart.  It was clear at COP28 in the story-telling of climate justice, of nature-based & indigenous solutions, youth-led initiatives, and of the ways in which faith organizations and this church shows up on a daily basis. There were 84,000+ people at COP28. I was struck repeatedly by the fact that we were not alone, especially not in the Anglican Communion. There were so many stories, not only of hope, but of courage, action, faith, justice, young people, women, and impacted communities from around the world. When we get isolated and stuck in our own silos, we can forget that we are part of a much larger group working to create Beloved Community for our entire world. If you get overwhelmed and perhaps feel that we are not doing enough, I encourage you to check out YouTube and the recordings from COP28.   

But I really feel we have reached that tipping point – the world can no longer deny that the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Will that be in 5 years? Not likely. Can we transition in 10 years? It depends.  It depends on the will of Earth’s people. It depends upon us. What will we now demand? What are the choices that we will make moving on from here?

On Wednesday I was asked to give a debrief of COP28 to Episcopal Relief and Development’s Climate Resiliency Community of Practice of which I am a member. Folks in that group wanted to know what we as members of the Global North are going to be doing to ensure that these agreements are met? If we profess on Sunday mornings that we are followers of the Way of Love, then the choices we make the rest of the week must reflect that care for creation. We as people of faith, are called to care for all of our siblings and that means that our actions must align with our words. We must keep telling stories from our hearts of the actions we are taking. We must not give up. Every day there are opportunities to love God and love our neighbors – we must not pass them by – there is no more time to watch and wait. Hope is a concept that is only manifest by the actions that we take as we pursue climate justice, reconciliation, and a just transition. 

Dr. Delia Heck earned her PhD in Geography from the University of Washington. She is the Director of Institutional Effectiveness and a Professor of Environmental Science at Ferrum College. She teaches courses in Environmental Science, Eco-Justice, GIS, and Sustainability. She works on issues of environmental justice and racism as a member of The Episcopal Church’s Taskforce for Care of Creation and Environmental Racism. She is a also a member of Episcopal Relief and Development’s Climate Resilience Community of Practice. Her summers are spent leading Ferrum College’s Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Monitoring Program. She is married to the Rev. John H. Heck and has two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and one adorable grandson.  

Dr. Delia Heck outside the COP28 Faith Pavilion. 

Dr. Delia Heck with the other Episcopal Presiding’s Bishop Week 1 onsite delegates. 

Dr. Delia Heck at a Gender Just action at COP28, photo credit LWF:Albin Hillert.  

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