We have come a long way but have made little progress, stated Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, in his message to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), referring to 22 years of UN conventions as an unacceptably long period to respond to the environmental crisis.
The UN climate change conference is, in some ways, occasion for celebration that the world’s nations responded to the urgent call in Paris to collaboratively address and confidently agree on the agenda that lies before them, stated Bartholomew I. However, the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) in many ways is also a painful reminder that 197 countries have ratified a convention enforced after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 only now.
“For twenty-two years, then, the world’s leading authorities and politicians have fundamentally agreed on the problems of global climate change and have held endless consultations and high-level conversations on something that requires practical measures and tangible action. Twenty-two years, however, is an unacceptably long period to respond to the environmental crisis, especially when we are conscious of its intimate and inseparable connections to global poverty, migration and unrest”, stated Bartholomew I.
After 22 years, it is finally time – and long overdue – for all of us to discern the human faces impacted by our ecological sins, noted Bartholomew I, for it is human beings – all of us, but especially the “least” and the most vulnerable or marginalized among us – who are irreversibly impacted. “How, then, can any nation justify the suffering of its people? How can any industry defend the exploitation of its customer? Unless we all perceive in our attitudes and actions, as in our deliberations and decisions, the faces of our own children – in the present and in future generations – then we shall continue to prolong and procrastinate the development of any solution”.
In a message delivered to the UNFCCC on 16 November, Bartholomew I wrote: “What price are we prepared to pay for profit? Or how many lives are we willing to sacrifice for material or financial gain? And at what cost would we forfeit or forestall the survival of God’s creation? It is our humble, yet bold prayer that all parties at the COP22 will recognize and respond to the high stakes involved in climate change.”
The statement of Bartholomew I was received by James Grabert, UNFCCC Sustainable Development Mechanisms coordinator. Although the Paris agreement provides the blueprint for national contributions and the tools for international support and cooperation, all of us have the opportunity to take action, said Grabert. “The Paris agreement is ours to implement – as individuals and as a society as a whole. We welcome this message today – it reminds us of the need to take action now and to implement what we have agreed, addressing humanity’s needs”.