COP15 Day 7: Temperatures rising

My own temperature rose a moment ago when my computer shut down without notice, thereby losing the blog I had taken an hour to compose! It’s now late in Copenhagen, so I’ll do my best to recap without staying up all night, and thank you for accepting rough writing.

While it was true last evening that I felt deeply blessed by Desmond Tutu, I didn’t tell you the whole truth. I also felt saddened and frustrated, because while church leaders from Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, and the U.S. were able to meet with these countries’ negotiating team representatives over dinner, the Canadian team was unrepresented. I’m told that they didn’t even call to give their regrets. And while Canada wasn’t the only absent governmental group, mine was yet another example of shame felt by many Canadians here at the COP15. Friends in the church leaders group have asked often about the Canadian government’s level of engagement here. The U.S. delegation representative agreed to let our Canadian delegation know that I missed them last night.
Just prior to dinner, the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Anders Wejryd, asked me—not unkindly but with real curiosity—“Why did Canada ratify the Kyoto Accord if it had no intention to live by its obligations?” Archbishop Wejryd is in good company with many here who are well aware that rather than working toward our Kyoto promise to reduce our carbon emissions by 6 percent compared to 1990 levels, Canadians have increased our carbon emissions by 28 percent since signing the Kyoto Protocol. It is easy to blame a change in government, but the truth is that we’re all implicated.

Richard Brand is another church partner here who serves as Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Energy with Germany’s EED foundation, an organization with which The United Church of Canada partners in numerous ways. He spoke with me this morning about how puzzled he was while travelling in Canada that we air-condition hotel rooms at such low temperatures—even when no one’s in them! He had other examples of our incredibly wasteful practices, and he’s not alone. Most here seem well aware of how Canadians are not only failing to live up to our past reputation as a compassionate nation toward the rest of the world, but also have invested heavily in projects such as the Tar Sands.

I’m told that there’s a “Not All Canadians Are Deadbeats” event planned for later this week. Oh—this just in: it’s going to be called “Acts of Climate Leadership by Provincial and Large Municipal Governments across Canada.” A reminder that there are good examples of people taking constructive action for planetary healing in their communities.

As Canadian Christians we are still respected within the World Council of Churches (WCC), Caritas International, and other delegations thanks to many fine representatives, including our United Church’s own David Hallman and Joy Kennedy. Following this morning’s WCC side event in the Bella Center, I met Guillermo Kerber Mas, who serves as the WCC Climate Change Coordinator. By this evening we were good friends, and he asked me to offer the formal welcome to a large gathering hosted by the Ecumenical Climate Secretariat tonight. What an honour. (As I type, Chris is editing an excellent interview with Guillermo that will soon appear in both English and French on the United Church’s YouTube channel.)

At tonight’s ecumenical gathering, Christian Aid brought us up to date on the progress of the COP negotiations, and why the temperatures of negotiators from the global South are rising. Industrialized countries of the North are continuing to resist commitments to the Kyoto Protocol, let alone what will be necessary to reduce the risk of disasters such as floods and cyclones; increase the resilience of people so livelihoods are protected, including the livelihoods of farmers and fishers; and working with those for whom it is already too late, compensating environmental immigrants and refugees.

The other side of Tutu’s blessing in the city square yesterday came in the form of a challenge: “Hello rich countries—wake up! It’s cheap to finance climate debt. 150 billion dollars a year would do it.” He also called on leaders to agree to at least a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo De Boer then added, “I’ve just come from the Bella Center and they’re always talking about the financial crisis. But this is a moral crisis, which could result in a global climate crisis.”

Temperatures rose for those trying to get into the Bella Center today too, including Sam Kobia, General Secretary of the WCC, and Olav Fykse Tveit, soon to succeed Kobia as General Secretary. Like many others, they waited for over four hours in the frigid temperatures, and I’m not sure they got in after all. Many more will have this experience tomorrow as the UN begins to restrict entry even further. Secondary passes will be required in addition to primary passes (enough have been distributed for about 20 percent of each NGO delegation), and following tomorrow the numbers will be restricted further. In other words, temperatures are rising in those who’ve come from all over the world to participate as NGOs. And yet spirits are strong.

I will be at Trinity Church in the morning—for a session on Creation and the Climate Crisis hosted by the Department of Systematic Theology and the National Council of Churches in Denmark. Such discussions and services of worship are framing the necessary moral, ethical, and theological ways forward and leading us toward healthier temperatures for the planet and for our relationships with all of life—participating in the healing of soul, community, and creation.

Moral, spiritual, and ethical leadership is what creation is longing for. And there couldn’t be a better place in the world this week to work together on these new understandings. So we’ll do our best to keep temperatures at a good and healthy level here for the rest of this week as the big questions about an agreement here remain unanswered.

Your prayers are important, and I thank all of you who have sent messages of solidarity and supportive actions for climate justice.

What are you doing to keep “temperatures” at healthy levels where you are?