“Personally I take the issue of climate change very seriously,” says Pillay. “I have seen the realities of what happens.”
He notes that the WCC 11th Assembly in 2022 made the WCC’s focus on climate justice a top priority of the WCC, placing it, Pillay says, “on the agenda of absolute importance.”
He is part of a coalition of faith community leaders who are bringing a spiritual, ethical, and moral voice to COP28, adding that that kind of voice should not be diminished when we discuss big issues in the world. “We cannot leave this big crisis that we actually are already experiencing to be a situation where we find solutions from politicians or scientists alone—or from another one group alone,” he says. “We need to actually be responsible stewards and citizens and we need to actually care for creation.”
He shares some stories from his travels as WCC general secretary in which he saw people struggling from the effects of climate change. “Food security has been seriously damaged,” he says. “The weird weather patterns alone are an indication enough that something is terribly wrong.”
Pillay also shares some of the key issues the WCC will bring to COP28.
“I think especially with regard to COP28, one gets a bit tired of these conversations taking place all the time—and actions are slow if any at all,” he says. “My hope is we will mobilize for action. My hope is that we will do less talk and more walk. The conversation should actually help us to say to leaders: this is urgent.”
Pillay also prioritizes communicating about fossil fuels, and how moving away from them will help reach goals already set in past climate talks. “Profit-making becomes an issue,” he says. “Another issue is the issue of loss and damage that they have come up with regard to sustainable communities.”
He especially emphasizes speaking with women and youth. “We also need to be talking to Indigenous people because they have a lot to teach us about how we respect and love the land,” he says, and noted that persons with disabilities should be carefully consulted as well. "They need to also to be part of this conversation, and we need to ask them: how does the climate change affect you?”
The WCC’s work at COP28 comprises awareness, advocacy, and mobilization for change, Pillay summarizes.
“We will do we have to do in order to make the changes so that we can address the climate crisis,” he said.