IN SEPTEMBER, the world's scientific community gave its verdict
on the state of global climate change - in the UN Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report - and it was not pretty (Comment, 27 September;
October). Now it is now the turn of the politicians to
Government negotiators, including energy and environment
ministers, from more than 190 countries will be meeting in Warsaw
from next Monday to plot their response to human-induced climate
The meeting does not have the snappiest title: the 19th
Conference of the Parties (COP 19) of the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But this is one body that really does
have the power to change the world for the better. It is not often
that policy-makers from every country come together to make
decisions that will have an impact on billions.
At the 2011 meeting in Durban, South Africa, countries promised
to create a new global plan to curb carbon emissions by 2015; this
latest meeting will be an important step in that process. The most
high-profile COP gathering in recent years, the 2009 summit in
Copenhagen, ended in disappointment, after it failed to create a
legally binding emissions treaty.
You might think that coal-loving Poland is an odd choice to
forge the next stage in the fight for a cleaner, safer, and
healthier planet. And you would probably be right. Early signs have
not been promising that the government of Poland really grasps the
situation. Perversely, it has decided to hold a meeting of global
producers of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, in Warsaw during
the climate summit.
Also, the number of summit passes provided to representatives
from NGOs has been slashed this year. Civil-society groups do a
vital job in observing the talks and speaking up for the victims of
climate change, who are often from the smallest and poorest
nations. By reducing the NGO numbers, Poland seems to be hoping for
a smoother ride, with fewer awkward questions.
Finally, a few weeks ago, a bizarre government-backed blog post
was published on the summit's official website, celebrating the
economic benefits of a melting Arctic, and claiming that it would
allow the chasing of "pirates, terrorists and ecologists that will
come to hang around". After a backlash, the post was taken
THE choice of Poland as host may seem darkly comic, but it could
provide an opportunity for progress. The Polish government is
notorious for obstructing previous talks and undermining the EU's
efforts to negotiate in this area.
As host, however, it will not want the meeting to end in
failure. A botched summit would be an embarrassment; so this could
create pressure that would force the Poles to be more
I will be attending the talks, and doing my bit for the
atmosphere by travelling there by train. These international
summits can sometimes feel cumbersome and full of impenetrable
jargon, to the point where some question their usefulness. But what
is important about the COP is that it has representatives from the
world's most vulnerable countries.
The small island-states whose existence is threatened by rising
sea-levels, and the leaders of drought-affected African nations get
to bear witness to the actions of the large polluters. It might
feel like a tortuous process, but it does have the potential to
deliver fair, global action on emission-reductions and help to
those who are suffering.
ONE of the big issues that are expected to come up in Warsaw is
that of "loss and damage". The reality is that, even if we avoid
future climate chaos by cutting carbon-emissions now, irreparable
damage will have already been done to countries that contributed
the least to the problem.
At the meeting in Doha last year, delegates agreed to formulate
some system of compensation to help countries facing catastrophic
human and economic losses because of climate change. We hope that
Warsaw will be where this is finalised.
Seeking political action can be hard work, as often politicians
are thinking only of the immediate election cycle. The Church has a
prophetic task in looking beyond our own narrow interests to the
wider Body of Christ, and holding our elected leaders to account.
The Bible speaks of the Church as a body, and, as Christians in the
UK, we need to be more aware of our fellow members around the
world, who are facing an inhospitable climate.
Not only can Christians act for people who are geographically
separate: we can also act for people generationally separate. The
unborn millions who will inherit our planet are just as much a part
of the Body of Christ as those alive today.
As Jim Wallis, the writer and spiritual adviser to Barack Obama,
says, we need to give politicians the political capital to do the
right thing. Often outside pressure allows them to do something
that they want to do but cannot justify politically. This is where
church-based campaigning organisations, such as Christian Aid and
Operation Noah, which are made up of volunteer supporters, can bear
witness for the common good.
The narrow vote by the House of Lords last month not to include
a decarbonisation target for 2030 in the forthcoming Energy Bill
was disappointing. In Britain, we need to make sure we are doing
our bit. The recent IPCC report revealed that scientists are now
95-per-cent certain that humans are the driving force behind
climate-change and its effects around the world. This is a stark
reminder that we need our politicians to act: the Church has a duty
to help them to do the right thing.
Joe Ware is Church and Campaigns Journalist at