MORE than 1000 people marked the start of the UN climate summit
COP 20 with a candle-lit, interfaith vigil in Lima, Peru, this
The gathering, held in a park, was made up of representatives of
different faith groups and Christian denominations. They urged UN
delegates to take action on climate change through prayer and song,
and with a presentation to the executive secretary of the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana
The meeting of more than 190 world nations is the last gathering
before an expected global deal to tackle climate change is sealed
in Paris next year.
Faith groups around the world held what is believed to be the
largest fast for the climate in history, going without food as an
act of solidarity with those suffering from the effects of climate
change, and urging delegates in Lima to make progress in
Among those fasting on the opening day of the summit, and the
first of every month until the Paris meeting, was the Bishop of
Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam. "Fasting has been used not
only as a discipline and petition to God, but also as a means of
drawing the attention of the powerful to injustice.
"The idea of prayer and fasting for the climate came from the
Philippines' lead negotiator, Yeb Sano, at the 2013 climate-change
talks, frustrated by their lack of progress after the devastation
caused to his country by Super Typhoon Haiyan" (News, 29 November
The chief executive of Christian Aid, Loretta Minghella, who
also fasted, said that, although climate change affected the
poorest the most, the fact that it will have an impact on everyone
was an opportunity to unite a divided world.
"Climate change may be our greatest challenge," she said, "but
how we respond to it can also be our greatest opportunity. A common
enemy which endangers people irrespective of their faith or race
has the potential to bring humanity together. The fasting of people
from across the world is an example of that united response."
The Lima summit comes three months after 400,000 people marched
through the streets of New York, and hundreds of thousands more in
cities around the world, to show leaders that climate change was
not an issue they could ignore (News,
26 September). This was followed by a number of groups' selling
their fossil-fuel funds, including an organisation created by the
heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune, the Rockefeller Brothers
Fund; and a significant agreement between the world's two biggest
carbon polluters - China and the United States - to cut their
greenhouse-gas emissions. Last month, the diocese of Oxford voted
to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies.
Civil-society groups tracking the UN talks in Lima hope to see
progress made on the structure of the Paris agreement which will
allow for emissions cuts to be increased over time, and greater
support for poor countries that are already having to adapt to
climate change, despite not being responsible for the
greenhouse-gas emissions that created it.
At Lima, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
reiterated its warning that temperatures that were already at 0.80
above pre-industrial levels must not breach 20, if dangerous
climate-change was to be avoided.
Joe Ware is Church and Campaigns Journalist for