Creation Care

The Episcopal Church at COP28: A returning delegate’s perspective

November 30, 2023
Creation Care

by Katie Ruth

Remarks given on Monday, November 27th 2023 on the Episcopal Church COP28 Kickoff Call.

I was able to serve last year as part of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s delegation to COP27, and it is an honor to return to the delegation again this year. I’ve been busy since last year – sharing lessons learned, growing my public moral voice, and building on connections made – all in the wider effort to care for this common home we share. I’ve spoken in pulpits, in Zoom rooms like this one, and around tables over coffee – highlighting how The Episcopal Church is responding to the climate crisis and centring eco-justice. It was very exciting to join other speakers in the creation care track at the It’s All About Love Festival in Baltimore over the summer.

Locally in my home diocese, exciting things are happening. We published a new resource page on the Diocesan website, hosted an education series including a report back on COP27, energy savings for congregations, and highlighting the community garden ministry of a local parish. We were able to distribute small amounts of funding from our allocated budget which helped support pollinator gardens, food access, & even the installation of solar panels! This is just one small part of the momentum that I am getting to witness in the interfaith community across the state. People are concerned and are asking, how might my faith and my community be part of the solution? This fills me with hope. I’m excited by the recent step the Episcopal Church took signing on to the fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty. The treaty, if you’re unfamiliar, calls for an ending of new coal, gas, and oil projects, the phase-out of fossil fuels via just transition, and accelerating the rollout of renewable energy. Actions like this strengthen our ability to be in global solidarity as well as the ability of our delegation to take action in spaces like COP28.

And yet, I recognize that this alone is not enough. Our individual actions, our ethos as a church, and the multi-faith movement to respond to a changing climate, is just one small and crucial piece in a much bigger puzzle. We need our elected leaders, government officials, financial institutions, and corporations to also commit to being part of a just transition to a sustainable future. Big polluters poisoning air and water resources, wealth hoarded by billionaires while millions starve, and violence committed against people and planet are the antithesis of the kindom of God. Our baptismal covenant calls us to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of all. It is our responsibility as people of the Jesus way to name the poisoning, hoarding, and taking of resources for the evil these things truly are and model a different way, one that is in harmony with all of God’s creation. We must call others to walk this path alongside us.

As a virtual delegate, I’m particularly looking forward to all of the learning and growing opportunities ahead, the chance to share about the Episcopal Church priorities with anyone who will listen, and connecting with more like-minded individuals doing this work. The biggest challenges of being a virtual delegate are the weird hours, the long days in front of a computer screen, and being isolated. Now that this is my second year, I’m excited to see how these opportunities and challenges will shift during my experience this time. I’m eager to bring back the things I see, hear, and learn to the Episcopal Church. I intend to write and blog about my experiences, and will share updates on my public account too.

COP28 arrives with a world in crisis – the suffering of all of God’s creation feels like it is at a tipping point. I’m hoping that we will see significant financial commitments made to loss and damage funding, along with investments in ambition and mitigation. These commitments need to come hand-in-hand with commitments to divest from fossil fuels, affirm Indigenous sovereignty, and center environmental justice. I am looking for accountability for the inaction and the failure to abide by the promises of the Paris agreement. I am looking for solidarity with the Global south, and acting in accordance with the voices of those who suffer at the frontlines of the climate crisis along gendered, racial, and economic lines. I am looking for strong denunciation of violence perpetrated against forest defenders and environmental activists and guarantees made for their ongoing protection.

What I said at the public launch last year remains true, I long for a world in which the environment is not commodified, strategized, or simply prioritized. Rather, recognized as an incarnation of divine love and an invitation to participate more fully in that love. We have an opportunity to be peacemakers in the way of Jesus, in the way of love – that is the work to which I am called and the spirit in which I make my way to COP28.


Katie Ruth (they them) is an Australian, of English/German/Serbian descent, currently residing in Pennsylvania on the traditional lands of the Susquehannock. They are a member of St Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg and serve as the chair of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania Creation Care Committee. They are also the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, an organization seeking to build an interfaith response to climate change responsive to our local contexts. 

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The Rev. Melanie Mullen

Director, Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care

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Phoebe Chatfield

Associate for Creation Care and Justice

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