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WCC Working Group on Climate Change meeting

Twenty five participants from various regions of the world gathered in the Protestant Academy of Bad Boll, Germany, at the WCC Working Group meeting on climate change to strategize together towards and beyond Copenhagen.

09 June 2009

Brief Report of the Meeting of the World Council of Churches Working Group on Climate Change

May 29-31, 2009 – Protestant Academy Bad Boll – Germany

by Guillermo Kerber
Programme Executive
Climate Change

"How can we distinguish between the epoch of industrial affluence and the epoch of environmental friendly affluence?
The philosopher Meyer-Abich compares the passing away model of an industrialized civilization with a crude oil tanker and the upcoming model of an environmental friendly civilization with a sailing boat…
The WCC logo is a sailing boat"

Jobst Kraus, Bad Boll Protestant Academy, May 2009

The WCC working group on Climate Change met in Bad Boll, on May 29-31, 2009. Twenty five people, representatives of churches, specialized ministries and ecumenical organizations came from Asia, Europe, North and South America and the Pacific.

The meeting had three complementary purposes:

  1. to discuss on the ecumenical vision on Climate Change beyond Copenhagen;
  2. to share information and strategize together on advocacy at COP 15 in Copenhagen;
  3. to get to know more about each other initiatives

The ecumenical vision on Climate Change beyond Copenhagen.

No matter what will happen in Copenhagen (either it is a big success or a big failure), climate change will continue and its consequences will continue to affect the most vulnerable communities. There was a sense the WCC should especially look beyond Copenhagen and enhance the responses of the churches to the challenges posed by climate change.  

The group discussed a very helpful draft presented by Christiaan Hogenhuis, “Sharing the planet” which builds on the previous discussion paper “Moving beyond Kyoto with equity, justice and solidarity” (November 2004). Different subgroups were formed,  focusing on adaptation, ethical and theological considerations, equity and practical steps towards and beyond COP15.

On adaptation, the subgroup stressed the need to have a holistic approach to climate change, strengthening the relationship between climate change and diakonia (development services of the churches) on issues like sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, water and sanitation, health, access to basic services. A rights based approach was highlighted as well as the need to particularly address the challenge of resettlement of vulnerable communities because of climate change.

On ethical and theological considerations, the subgroup requested to further elaborate a new theology of creation overcoming anthropocentrism (which is still underlying the notion of stewardship) and developing what it means to live in dignity on the earth. A call for metanoia (repentance, change, conversion) should be at the centre of the churches message on climate change, nurtured on the “spiritual values for earth community” (David Hallman), and an “earth ethics for the earth community” (Larry Rasmussen). Interfaith avenues should continue to be explored, building on the Interfaith Climate Summit in Uppsala in November 2008 and its Manifesto. The subgroup encouraged participants and the ecumenical movement at large, to contribute to the Peace with the earth component of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held in Kingston, Jamaica in May 2011 and to provide resources to celebrate the Time for Creation (September 1 – October 4).

On equity, the need to further analyze the interlinkage between climate change and economic models was highlighted. While it is easier to look at equity from a social and theological perspective, stressing its integrity, solidarity and resilience components it is more difficult to formulate its contents on economic terms. Deepening the concept of sustainable communities, including its economic, ecological and social components would help in this task. Explorations should be made to look at different indicators, beyond the Human Development Index, which is still limited. From a capability approach, participation becomes a crucial precondition to face climate change. Links between financial debt and ecological debt; equity, power and justice; theological, philosophical, social sciences and economy approaches were highlighted.

On practical steps, the group made concrete suggestions on the drafting of the WCC statement for COP 15, the organization of the side event with an interfaith approach to climate change, the topic for the next meeting of the working group (assessing COP 15), the importance of having a stall in COP 15, etc.

Towards COP15

Mattias Söderberg and Kirsten Auken, head and international campaign coordinator respectively, of the Ecumenical Climate Secretariat established in Copenhagen and hosted by Danchurchaid, made a presentation on the reasons behind the establishment of the Secretariat (coordination and practical preparations), participants (WCC, APRODEV, other partners, links with CIDSE/Caritas coordination); practical help offered (accommodation, transportation, visa requests, etc.) and key activities where the ECS is having a proactive role: Countdown to Copenhagen; the ecumenical celebration and special programme for church leaders attending COP15 from 12 to 15 December.

Countdown to Copenhagen, initially originated by APRODEV, is the broad ecumenical campaign towards COP15. WCC member churches and Regional Ecumenical Organizations will be called to join the campaign to show the global character of the initiative and to express this commitment through 350 bell ringing on Sunday 13, 2009 at 3PM local times. 350 referred to the 350 ppm CO2. A letter from the WCC general secretary will soon be sent to member churches on Countdown to Copenhagen and the bell ringing.

The Ecumenical Celebration will be held on Sunday 13 December at 2pm. It has as confirmed participants the Archbishop of Canterbury (who will be preaching), the Archbishop of Uppsala and the WCC general secretary. Invitations were sent among others to the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarch of Moscow and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The WCC will host a press conference after the worship and bell ringing with church leaders.

The special programme includes activities in different churches in Copenhagen and a side event on inter-religious approach to climate change to be requested for Tuesday 15 morning.

Other participants reported on various campaigns towards COP 15: Christiaan Hogenhuis (WCC representative), Nafisa D’Souza and Fei Tevi, members of the Board of the Global Campaign on Climate Action (GCCA) on GCCA initiatives; Guillermo Kerber on the Guidelines Principles for Climate Justice in the context of the Global Humanitarian Forum work; Christine Campeau on the Caritas Internationalis/CIDSE Campaign on Climate Justice. The concern on how these different campaigns are being coordinated was raised. Some meetings with top representatives of these have been held.

The presentation of ecumenical initiatives on climate change includes the following: Bernhard Walter, from Bread for the World, on the report of “Sustainable Germany”. Jobst Kraus, from the Protestant Academy in Bad Boll on the sustainable management of the Academy, the environmental agenda at the German Protestant Kirchentag and the “Sunny times for the WCC” project; Ilkka Sipilainen, from the Lutheran Church of Finland, on the climate change programme “Gratitude, respect, moderation” of his church; Freddy De Alwis , from the Christian Conference of Asia on recent CCA initiatives on climate change and global warming; Nafisa D’Souza, from Laya, India, on Decentralized Energy Options; Larisa Skuratovskaya on recent developments of climate change in Russia and mainstreaming gender issues into the climate change debate; Peter Emberson, from the Pacific Conference of Churches, on the recent meeting of Pacific church leaders addressing resettlement because of climate change; Marijke van Duin and Henrik Grape, from the European Christian Environmental Network, on recent ECEN activities on the topic; Michael Slaby, from the Earth Charter on religion and the Earth Charter.

The general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Fei Tevi, kindly offered to host the 2010 meeting of the WCC Working Group on Climate Change in the Pacific in a date to be confirmed later (probably May 2010). The meeting will have as main topic the assessment of COP15.

The evaluation of the meeting among other comments highlighted the richness of having “old-timers” as well as new participants in the working group and expressed its highest appreciation for the witness of the Bad Boll Academy on its sustainable management and Jobst Kraus, for the warmest hospitality.