By Fredrick Nzwili
United Nations climate talks achieved minimal success, say Christian leaders and activists, who claim the outcome does too little to respond to the impact of climate change on poor countries.
At the 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks, political leaders agreed to retain the Kyoto Protocol–though Canada withdrew from it–and start negotiations in 2015 for a new legally binding deal to take effect in 2020. A fund for climate aid to poor countries was also agreed upon at the conference, which ran from 29 November to 9 December in Durban, South Africa.
“We need to listen to vulnerable countries and populations, and think of the legacy we are leaving to our children. Churches should continue to act and pray, especially during this time when we prepare for Christmas, the event when God sent his Son, Jesus, to save our beloved planet,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary in a statement on 13 December.
Climate change has severely affected African countries, Pacific Island States, and South America and Asian peoples, according to observers from faith groups, despite the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted eight years ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Religious leaders say the problem should be addressed as a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue.
“After five years, we come back to Africa and find that the faith communities and the civil society are still pleading, requesting and demanding climate justice for all,” said a WCC statement read to government leaders on 9 December by Elias Crisostomo Abramides, an official from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul.
In Nairobi, Jesse Mugambi, a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Nairobi who attended the talks, cautiously welcomed the outcome, but observed that developed nations were not keen to commit to bidding agreement for cutting the emissions.
“It appears, for the poor and powerless, it is between them and their God. They should not count on the rich nations to help them. Justice and equity have been left out for profits,” said Mugambi in a telephone interview with ENInews. “In 2020, it will be 50 years since the first conference was held in Stockholm (Sweden). Regional leaders will have abdicated their responsibility (over rescuing the planet) to the next generation by then, and that is unethical.”
United Church of Canada moderator Mardi Tindal, who was part of an international delegation of Church leaders, wrote in her blog on 9 December that the longing to see more leadership than politics ran deep.
“We as Canadians must convince our Minister and our other political leaders that we will follow them when they do the right things; that the political cost of giving climate change leadership is not as great as they might fear. Indeed there could very well be a political gain for our government if it is prepared to lead,” she said.