Faith groups express hopes for Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

December 9, 2009

As delegates gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference Dec. 7-18, the hopes of faith groups concerned are represented in written statements and personal witness.

The Rev. Jeff Golliher, program associate for the environment and sustainable development in the Office of the Anglican Observer at the U.N., has led a delegation of concerned leaders from around the communion.


Drawn primarily from the global south, members of the delegation include Eliud Njeru Njiru of Kenya, a member of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), and the Rev. Grace Kaiso, general secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa. Marco Lutaya and Anna Gula, also from the Anglican Observer's office, are attending.


Representation from the developing world is critical, Golliher explained, because of the disproportionate impact of climate change. "We need to be sure that we have the whole world's voice," he said, "because the solution ... needs to include them. They should be equal partners."


In "The Hope We Share: A Vision for Copenhagen," a statement published in October, the ACEN asked: "Is it too much to hope that every country, developed and developing, will commit to the view that what is in the world's best interest is in their best interest?"


Also traveling to Copenhagen were a portfolio of statements by faith groups collected by the National Religious Coalition for Creation Care (NRCCC). Rabbi Warren Stone, co-chair of NRCCC, planned to present the statements to the office of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Statements in the delegate's packets represent the hopes for action of a wide range of Christian and Jewish groups.


The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, priest associate at Grace Church in Amherst, Massachusetts, and part of the NRCCC effort, recalled speaking at a climate rally on the Boston Common near the Massachusetts State House a few weeks ago. "[It] was organized by the Leadership Campaign, a student-led campaign for 100% clean electricity in Massachusetts by 2020," she said. "Many of these inspired students have been sleeping outside in the weeks leading up to the Copenhagen talks, refusing to sleep in buildings heated and lighted by fossil fuels. I hope that the outcome of the Copenhagen talks will honor the yearning of these young people to live in a safe and just world."


Other Episcopal leaders in environmental ministry are expressing hope that the United States delegation will "demonstrate a willingness to push the envelope on the commitment we will make" as the Rev. Fletcher Harper of Green Faith, an interfaith education and action organization, puts it.


"I hope that the U.S., which among all the nations on earth on this issue has been so recalcitrant for so long, will demonstrate a new moral resolve with the help of our president," said the Rev. Benjamin Webb, director of the Center for Regenerative Society in Cedar Falls, Iowa. "The whole world yearns to hear and see such leadership from America."


Though she admits to pessimism when considering whether the talks will result in any kind of comprehensive, binding agreement, Bullitt-Jonas continues to "live in Advent hope that nations will rise above immediate economic self-interest and look ahead to the future that we share."

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