COP15 Day 8: Do not be afraid

I thought this afternoon would allow for a first break of the week, but then interesting things unfolded—all day!
This morning was extremely helpful for those of us involved in the World Council of Churches and Ecumenical Climate Secretariat as we participated in a seminar hosted by the Dept. of Systematic Theology and National Council of Churches in Denmark. I have been hungry for imagining and describing a theology of integrity that will help us move faithfully forward from here. The “Creation and the Climate Crisis” session satisfied that hunger. The right people were gathered to share sound academic and practical theology, biblical brilliance, and deep wisdom. It’s going to take a few more days to absorb and weave it together, and I will tell you about it soon.

This morning’s session was interrupted at about 11:00 a.m. with news that the head of a large negotiating group of nations at the COP15 wanted to meet with certain church leaders. As these dozen or so leaders. titles were read, I heard “the bishop from Canada.” That would be me.

The short story is that this delegation leader was never able to extricate himself from the negotiating session after all. So, following a midday meal hosted by the National Council of Churches in Denmark, we gathered at the Dan Church Aid office to be briefed yet again on the status of the negotiations. We were told that early today the United States delegation said that they will not accept any legally binding agreement; they will not accept any historical responsibility for the climate crisis as an industrialized nation; they will not agree to anything that China doesn’t sign on to; and they will not provide any funding for adaptation as a result of climate change. In a familiar pattern, there was no news about Canada’s leadership.

With such a disturbing backdrop, the knowledge that so many are already suffering from the effects of climate change, and with no intention of aligning ourselves with any one nation or group of nations, we decided to draft a statement as church leaders, building on words from Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop Desmond Tutu earlier this week. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said during the service Sunday, “Do not be afraid to act for the sake of love,” and we have chosen to amplify that gospel message: “Do not be afraid!” The statement calls to both developed and developing nations to do what they must each do. I’ll include the full text here as soon as it broadly available.

If you heard the first hour of CBC Radio’s The Current this morning, you may have heard Alanna Mitchell. Alanna is with our little group of United Church people here, accredited by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. People here are keenly interested in Alanna’s book Sea Sick, about the crisis in the ocean. For Canada, which has the longest coastline in the world, the acidification of the oceans is becoming an increasingly urgent matter—as it is for others in the world. Those in the north and on the western and eastern coasts of Canada know this first hand as permafrost melts and the fish disappear.

But for now, it’s late again in Copenhagen just as it’s late in the talks. I hope the many sirens outside my window tonight aren’t a sign of folks giving up on the process of peaceful, democratic engagement. I admire the deep understanding of the issues and the respectful self-control that so many, largely from Europe and Scandinavia, possess here. The level of awareness about the dangers of climate change is very high among such nations, as it seems to be in almost every other part of the world. Countless people have been working for many years to bring these concerns into our consciousness, and there has been so much hope and expectation that this conference would produce a breakthrough (1500 Norwegians, including ALL of the bishops of Norway, came here by boat, for example, with hopes as high as the seas).

Let’s ensure that our focus remains clear and that we aren’t afraid to act for the sake of love. What helps you to do that?