Pilgrims coming from Germany, Italy and Norway ended their journeys for climate justice on 7 December upon arrival at the St Stephen’s Church in Katowice, Poland, where the United Nations (UN) climate conference is underway. They were warmly welcomed by the delegations of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) that are attending the 24th Conference of Parties of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24).
Originating from Bonn on 9 September, the German pilgrims, led by Juliana Klengel, recounted how they passed through beautiful countryside and forests as well as gigantic nuclear power plants and coal mines to get to Katowice.
Noting that coal is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions in Germany and decrying the failure to meet emissions reduction targets, they are demanding from the federal government “to bring Germany swiftly back to an ambitious and binding course of climate protection”, said Klengel.
Led by Yeb Saño, former lead climate negotiator for the Philippines, the pilgrimage from Rome had representatives from seven countries and covered 1,500 kilometers on foot during 62 days.
It was aimed at lifting up calls to action for an ambitious global rule book that can ensure a quick end to the fossil fuel era; a just transition to the clean energy economy; and a new practice of integral ecology by individuals and communities.
During the welcome, an emotional Saño paid tribute to a fellow pilgrim, Canadian peace advocate and Quaker, Alan Burns, who passed away on 11 November while carrying out the pilgrimage.
“His pilgrimage was a testament to the human spirit and brought out many stories of hope”, said Saño.
A Norwegian bike pilgrim, pro cyclist Jonas Orset, traveled 1300 kilometers over six days from Oslo to Katowice. While most participants to the COP 24 arrived by plane, Orset chose an emission-free if challenging mode of travel to bring attention to the growing climate crisis and alternative transport systems.
All three pilgrim teams joined WCC and LWF delegates in the march calling for immediate climate action, on 8 December, in Katowice, which drew an estimated 3,000 people.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5 C reveals that we have a window of 10-12 years to act decisively on climate change and prevent catastrophic climate impacts.
WCC president at COP24: “God wants us to be stewards for the whole ecological weave, for our shared home, for the oikoumene” - WCC news release 10 December 2018
"Faith groups at COP24 advocate for just transitions" - WCC news release 5 December 2018
"COP24: Global church bodies urge transformative action to protect the most vulnerable" - WCC/ACT Alliance/LWF joint news release 30 November 2018