“COP28 paves the way for deeper and more effective and meaningful engagement of faith communities in addressing the climate emergency,” said World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay. “I am pleased that religious leaders were able to meet in advance to issue a statement as a contribution and stance on the catastrophic climate situation we are already facing.”
Pillay added that he looks forward to engaging with religious leaders and many others to impress upon the authorities the need to phase out fossil fuel, implement a loss-and-damage agreement, and address the provision of climate finance.
“The WCC has made its position clear in its recent statement on COP28,” he said. “My task would be to communicate this and work with others in securing a movement toward what we believe should a response to the climate crisis.”
The World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, and ACT Alliance are sharing a platform for climate justice, pooling their representatives at COP28 for a united voice.
“More than ever, the urgency of climate justice is clear: as global warming reaches 1.1 degrees Celsius, we are witnessing the tremendous impacts of climate change, which disproportionately affect the livelihoods of the poor and most vulnerable worldwide, especially those who often face different forms of vulnerable people around the world,” said Elena Cedillo, Lutheran World Federation program executive for Climate Justice. “Ecumenical groups enhance inclusiveness at the COP by fostering dialogue among diverse stakeholders, promoting mutual understanding, and working together on shared environmental values.”
This year more than ever, ecumenical groups are engaging in joint advocacy to address the impacts of climate change, creating a more inclusive and united front in global efforts to address environmental challenges.
“I would like to see increased commitment and action for climate justice at different levels and by different actors,” Cedillo said. “As a matter of climate justice, governments, especially major emitters, must take the necessary steps by implementing emission reduction measures consistent with 1.5˚C; scaling up climate finance, prioritizing the most vulnerable communities to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change; and operationalizing and providing resources for the loss-and-damage fund.”
ACT Alliance is also determined to press forward the urgency of decisive action. “The decade between 2020 and 2030 will be the most important one for ambitious policy and action,” notes ACT Alliance. “The Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction serve as important global frameworks guiding the actions of governments the private sector and civil society to address climate change.”
ACT Alliance is also calling for national and regional level policies, commitments, and accountability to limit the effects of climate change. “Today more than ever we need to come together as civil society and faith-based communities to call for climate justice,” ACT stated.
Phasing out fossil fuels
Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for Economic and Ecological Justice, noted that ecumenical messages have always emphasised climate justice.
“But our message to COP28—which is taking place in a major oil and gas producing country—is different from previous messages in that we underscore the urgency of phasing out fossil fuel now in light of scientific findings,” she said. “These findings underline that carbon emissions must peak by 2025 and fall sharply in order to keep global heating at 1.5 Celsius.”
Increasingly, ecumenical groups are bringing Indigenous and youth delegates to the COP.
"They are at the frontline of the climate emergency,” said Peralta. “At this COP, we will for the first time have a child with a disability in the WCC delegation. She will bring focus on how climate change disproportionately affects children and persons with disability, but also on how children and persons with disability are actively building solutions to climate change.”
The urgency to act is more pressing than ever, agreed Rev. Henrik Grape, WCC senior advisor on Care for Creation, Sustainability, and Climate Justice.
“The main source for global warming is fossil fuels,” he said. “The most efficient ways to slow down the temperature rise is to phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
But those who rely on fossil fuels for their living must be protected in the transition, noted Grape. “The other message of importance is about climate finance,” he said. “For those most vulnerable, there is a great need for finance.”
Promises made in this regard are not fulfilled, he noted. “We have witnesses from the most vulnerable about what climate crisis means,” he said. "And with no means to meet the new climate-impacted world, they are at real risk.”
He also noted that more faith groups are coming to COPs. “That kind of inclusivity is important to make our voices heard,” he said. “That is a very powerful way of showing that we from different traditions can find a common ground to address COP.”
Grape hopes that the voices of the most affected will be heard at COP—and that the people in power will not ignore them. “I hope that the interest of Mother Earth will be stronger than the interests of business and power structures looking for dominion,” he said. “I hope that it will be clear that there is no future in fossil fuels and that the finance for adaptation and loss and damage will come.”