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Churches reflect on climate finance at UN Financing for Development Conference

16 July 2015

“Prolonged droughts coupled with sudden floods are the face of climate change in Ethiopia,” said Endeshaw Kassa of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. Observing that small-holder subsistence farmers are suffering the most, Kassa warned that “as water becomes scarce, crops fail, livestock perish; communities are forced to leave the land.”

Kassa was speaking at a side event at the 3rd United Nations Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13–16 July.

Addressing the theme “Climate finance: Investing in the most vulnerable, building a just and sustainable future” – the event was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ACT Alliance.

Kassa shared that rural communities in Ethiopia are already responding to the challenge posed by climate change. They are planting drought-resistant crops and building water-harvesting facilities. “These initiatives need to be supported and scaled up,” he argued.

Athena Peralta, the WCC’s consultant for the Economic and Ecological Justice Programme, said that “mobilizing resources to enable impoverished and vulnerable communities to adapt to climate warming and transition towards low-carbon, climate-resilient development is a key challenge”.

“It is also a matter of justice,” she said.

Peralta went on to say that financing interventions to address global ecological challenges must support the impoverished, women, as well as rural and coastal communities.

“We must make sure that the financial burden of coping with climate change is not transferred to nations who contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, possess scant financial resources, yet still are particularly exposed to climate change,” she said.

Alix Mazounie of the Climate Action Network (CAN) said that “rich nations must substantially increase their level of support for climate finance in addition to official development assistance.” While sharing recommendations from CAN, she added that subsidies provided to fossil fuel industries should be phased out and renewable energy projects be supported.

Mazounie said that a financial transaction tax at global, regional and national levels would raise revenues enabling climate-vulnerable nations and communities to face up to climate change.

Moreover, “private finance must be subject to accountability to ensure that they meet human rights and ecological sustainability criteria. These proposals should be considered in the Addis Ababa Accord,” she said.

The WCC statement on Eco-justice and Ecological Debt and the report Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture call upon rich nations, primarily responsible for climate change, to transfer resources to impoverished nations to pay the costs of climate-proofing.

The former specifically calls for the cancellation of illegitimate debts. This form of climate debt reparations could free up resources for building climate resilience. The payment of reparations could be realized through implementation of carbon and other pollution taxes.

Church voices highlight significance of tax reforms at UN conference in Addis Ababa (WCC news release of 15 July 2015)

More information: United Nations Financing for Development Conference

Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture

WCC’s work on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology