WALKERS have set off on a 500-mile pilgrimage to Glasgow before the COP26 climate summit scheduled to take place in the city in November. At the same time, the Climate Action Network (CAN), the world’s largest environmental coalition of more than 1500 NGOs, called for the COP26 summit to be delayed until the spring of 2022.
On Climate Sunday, 5 September, one group set off from Parliament Square, in London; a few days later, a second group set off from Bristol.
The walkers are a multi-faith group led by the Extinction Rebellion interfaith alliance, known as XR Faith Bridge. About 15 people will walk the entire distance. Many more are expected to join for different sections of the route, and the final party will arrive in Glasgow on the eve of the summit, 30 October.
Melanie Nazareth, aged 61, a lawyer and a mother of four from London, who is also a member of Christian Climate Action, is helping to co-ordinate the pilgrimage, which they are calling “Camino to COP”. She said: “My ethnic roots are in the small Indian coastal state of Goa, and I grew up in the Solomon Islands. What is happening in these two places connects the ecological crisis and the climate crisis straight to my heart. The people most affected by ecological and climate breakdown are not being heard. I hope that we can amplify voices like these as we walk the Camino.”
The walk has been dubbed “Camino to COP” in reference to pilgrimages made since medieval times. It is also inspired by the faith tradition of pilgrimage and justice marches of the past, such as the Jarrow March in the UK, the Salt March in India, and Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, DC, in the United States. They hope to share personal stories and inspire others to add their voices to those calling on governments to act swiftly to address the climate crisis. The pilgrimage is also fund-raising to support activist groups in regions most affected by climate change.
This year’s Climate Sunday was celebrated by 1950 churches of 40 denominations, making it the largest ecumenical Christian movement for climate justice in the UK. Over the past year, the Climate Sunday initiative has been asking churches to act, pray, and speak up on climate change, and has been encouraging Christians to get involved with a church “greening scheme”, such as A Rocha’s Eco Church or CAFOD’s Live Simply.
A special Climate Sunday service was held in Glasgow Cathedral, and live-streamed. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Lord Wallace, said: “As we look to the COP26 taking place later this year, it has been an honour to join with ecumenical friends from England, Wales, and Ireland, as well as here in Scotland, to mark Climate Sunday at Glasgow Cathedral. The event took place on the first Sunday of Creation Time, and was a chance to engage with the immense issues facing our planet through prayer and worship.”
The chief executive of A Rocha UK, Andy Atkins, who chairs the Climate Sunday coalition, urged other churches to join the movement in the weeks leading up the Glasgow summit. “It’s hugely encouraging to see so many churches making their own practical commitments on climate change — surely one of the biggest moral issues of our generation,” he said.
“Clearly, every section of society needs to contribute to heading off climate catastrophe, including urging governments to use their greater powers and resources to maximum effect. There are still eight weeks before COP26, and we hope hundreds more churches will hold a service, commit to action, and speak up in that time.”
KAREN BASS/DIGITALMINISTRY4Canon David Wallace, of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Glasgow leads the closing blessing at a special Climate Sunday service held in St Mungo’s Church of Scotland Cathedral, Glasgow, and live streamed
In calling for a postponement of COP, CAN refer to the UK’s poor preparation, which has left many summit delegates from the poorer countries unable to attend as they are not able to get vaccinated, and face large travel and quarantine costs.
In a statement, the group said: “It is evident that a safe, inclusive, and just global climate conference in early November will be impossible, given the failure to support the access to vaccines of millions of people in poor countries; the rising costs of travel and accommodation; including for quarantine in and outside of the UK; and the uncertainty in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The group’s executive director, Tasneem Essop, criticised the UK Government’s lack of action as hosts of the G7 in Cornwall earlier this year, for holding back vaccine roll-out in poorer countries.
She said that the CAN had advocated for vaccine equity since the start of the year, and “called out the UK for failing to support a patent waiver at the G7 Summit back in June. Today, 57 per cent of Europe is fully vaccinated, while just about three per cent of Africa is.”
Immediately after the statement was released, the president of COP26, Alok Sharma, wrote on Twitter that the UK Government would pay the hotel costs for delegates who were forced to quarantine for five days on entry to the UK. But the director of the think tank Power Shift Africa, Mohamed Adow, who is a long-time observer at the climate talks, said that a delay was still needed. “Rather than scrambling out piecemeal measures at late notice, we need a comprehensive plan to make the summit fully accessible for all.
“A summit dominated by developed countries would undermine the principles of the UN process, and opens the door for a rich-nations stitch-up of the talks. A climate summit without the voices of those most affected by climate change is not fit for purpose.”