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Vigil held before Lima climate summit

05 December 2014

By Joe Ware in Lima


Participants in the candle-lit vigil before the opening of the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru

Participants in the candle-lit vigil before the opening of the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru

MORE than 1000 people marked the start of the UN climate summit COP 20 with a candle-lit, interfaith vigil in Lima, Peru, this week.

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 Figueres.

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 negotiations.

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 2013).

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 Christian Aid.


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