Faith for the Climate: Hope into Action in Paris and beyond

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As the COP21 Conference enters it’s second week, Bishop Efraim M. Tendero The Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance reflects on his time at the conference and the role the global church can play in this issue going forward.

We came from 195 countries to Paris, some 40,000 individuals from government, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, Non Government Organizations and civil society for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.

I salute all the participants for working hard to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

This international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, that adopted the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

As part of the Philippine delegation and assisted by our long time relief and partner Tearfund I came to Paris with two purposes: to seek climate justice and to advocate for the engagement of the religious sector in the Conference of Parties.

One of the causes of the major weather disturbances in the world that brings super typhoons like Haiyan (aka, Yolanda) in the Philippines, and the drying of lands in Australia, and flooding in Pakistan is the warming of the earth’s surface due to the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As one of the vulnerable countries to climate disturbance, the Philippines contributes only 0.28% of the carbon emissions of the world, while the top ten big countries in the world emits 67% of the world’s total, with the United States of America and China alone contributing 42% of it. Climate justice calls for the big economies to drastically reduce their carbon footprint to lessen the rate of increase of the warming of the earth’s oceans and further to contribute to the global fund that will help the vulnerable countries finance their adaptation and mitigation programmes to the negative effects of global warming. Justice demands that the ones largely responsible for the cause of climate chaos must help those that are adversely affected by such turbulences.

There were also occasions where I was able to pitch on the agenda of advocating for the involvement of the religious sector in this global response. It is glaring that the overwhelming majority of the 40,000 participants come from the academic, business, political, media, and scientific sectors while the religious participants can can counted with my fingers. It is a pity that the multi faith sector are not recognized nor given the opportunity to engage in negotiations for agreements that will be binding to all nations. While we recognize the scientific and political bases of our actions, we must not forget the moral and spiritual dimension of climate change.

The importance of engaging the faith sector in addressing this global survival is seen in three areas. First, we bring the moral dimension on the issue. The decision to reduce carbon footprint is rooted on the ethical foundation that human life needs to protected and nurtured. Shifting to renewable sources of energy over against the harmful fossil based energy is not only a scientific endeavor, but an ethical action that seeks the survival and well being of humanity.

Second the religious can enforce action on a universal scale. The universal distribution and grass roots contact of faith leaders makes the mobilization for whatever strategies and actions needs to be taken in the mitigation and adaptation programs in lessening the negative effects of climate change. People will listen more to their religious leaders than their political, science, and civic leaders.

Finally, the faith sector can bring the element of hope. There is distrust and suspicion that crept within the hearts of people brought by the pain for the loss of lives and properties due to weather disturbances. There is cynicism in others who cannot see progress in all the 20 years of unfulfilled commitments in the past negotiations. But the faith leaders can illicit hope that beyond human limitations is the Divine that desires the fullness of life for all of humanity. That humanity can enjoy the abundance of this planet that God has created and sustains by His power despite our wanton abuse and misuse of the earth’s resources. And ultimately our hopes hinges on the affirmation that in Jesus all things were created by Him, through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

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