Cate Williams on COP27: politics, churches and community

Published: Monday November 14, 2022

COP27 logo Sharm El Sheik Egypt 2022Diocesan Environmental Engagement Officer, the Revd Dr Cate Williams reflects on COP27 and how our churches and communities can be part of the solution.

As the COP27 discussions continue, we continue to pray for leaders as they gather. Some of us, or members of our churches, may have been a part of the Global Day of Action on Saturday 12 November, the middle weekend of the conference. All of us can pray, as well as doing what we can in the places we are called to serve. These are ways that those of us who are not present at the conference itself can participate and show our concern and our support. You might consider using Tearfund’s prayer guide to help focus your prayers.

A significant new item has been brought to the table this year, with Christian Aid’s Time to Act campaign significant in raising concerns brought by international partners. ‘Loss and damage’ asks for funding to be made available to those nations that have suffered the most damage from climate change.  They are often the ones that have contributed only minimally to greenhouse gases and yet are suffering the costs hard.  Many African nations are experiencing famine due to the effect of changing climate on farming, and pacific islands are highly at risk from rising sea levels.

Also on the agenda, are themed days, including water scarcity, biodiversity, finance, adaptation and agriculture, gender, and youth.  Nature-based solutions are less prominent on the agenda than in Glasgow. Tuesday’s focus will be on energy, and Thursday’s focus will be on new technologies that have the potential to be part of the solution. There are fears, however, that the commitment to limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees, agreed in Paris at COP15, will be allowed to slip.

As so often with these conferences, there is a mix of hope and frustration, and we may or may not end this week feeling encouraged by what has been achieved. Either way, politicians are not going to do the whole of this work for us. They can, if they choose, make the work easier. We might hope for a decarbonising commitment to include making grant funding available which will help us move our priorities forward.  But whether or not this is forthcoming, as people of hope, we continue to do what we can, with our churches, our wider communities and wherever our work and life take us.

For us in the Diocese of Gloucester, we continue to work internally on our 2030 goal, but also have a significant part to play as we partner with our wider communities. As Christians we are committed to being salt, light and yeast, bringing hope not just to churches but to wider community spaces too.   Many of our churches are working in wider community partnerships in order to enable the bigger changes that are possible when there is broad community ownership. This doesn’t directly impact our Diocesan net zero target, yet is significant in changing the landscape. Greening Tetbury is one example of this happening in a local context. Likewise, the environmental focus in the partnership between Shurdington church and school caught in some of our recent videos is fabulous, again lived out with different details but similar broad vision in other places too.

Political solutions are really important, and we continue to hope and pray for good outcomes at COP27 and beyond.  But the nature of democracy means that politicians can only make significant change when they are confident that they have grassroots support for that decision.  Changing the landscape, which is a significant outcome of this broader work in our communities, makes it more likely that politicians will do what is needed, as they become more confident that green policies will gain them political support.

As well as lobbying government, with our presence in every community up and down the UK, we can encourage others around us to take this seriously, share hope with those feeling eco-anxiety, and offer spaces for communities to gather to work this out together. We are doing all that we can to put our own house in order. We can also encourage others around us in our communities to do what they can, in their households, workplaces, and networks.

We then keep this connected with the bigger picture as we pray for COP27 and engage with politicians locally and nationally, guided by charities such as Christian Aid and Tearfund.

This is how we will bring a movement that brings the significant change that is needed.


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