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COP28: Listen to young people, Communion urges world leaders

29 November 2023


A woman in the grounds of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Wednesday

A woman in the grounds of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Wednesday

THE Primate who will lead the Anglican Communion presence at the COP28 summit in Dubai has called on the governments represented to heed the call of the world’s young people and take swift action on the climate crisis.

Before the summit opens in Dubai on Thursday, the Primate of Central America, the Most Revd Julio Murray, from Panama, said: “We have a responsibility to those who are suffering to make sure something changes. Religious leaders listen to the voice of young people around the world telling us ‘You can do more.’”

The faith pavilion was to be unveiled by Pope Francis on his first visit to a COP meeting, but this has now been cancelled: his doctors dissuaded him from travelling, as he is recovering from influenza and a respiratory-tract inflammation.

In a video message to the Global Leaders Faith Summit, in Abu Dhabi last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “Faith leaders represent the majority of people across the world, from both developed and developing countries. We can demonstrate to world leaders that people of faith want to see, and are willing to support, change. We can lead by example and let world leaders know they have a mandate for bold, ambitious decision making at COP28.”

The United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s largest oil producers. Dubai may not be associated with action on climate change, but the organisers hope that this year’s summit could be the moment when the world agrees to a date by which fossil-fuel use will have been phased out.

Scientists predict that 2023 will be declared the hottest year in recorded history. Besides setting a fossil-fuel phase-out date, countries are being urged to increase the financial support sent to the most affected communities, who often have some of the lowest emissions, and yet suffer the most devastating impacts.

The COP, or Conference of the Parties, meetings, are the only international forum in which every country has an equal opportunity to speak and vote. The meeting cannot end until the final agreement is signed off by every nation: as a consequence, the two-week summit often overruns — sometimes by up to 48 hours.

The need for consensus often means that the talks do not move as urgently as scientists, campaigners, and climate-vulnerable nations demand. The negotiations, however, set the general trajectory of international climate and energy policy, and the decisions reached send signals to global markets, businesses, and investors.

The Paris Agreement, struck at COP21 in 2015 (News, 30 October 2015), laid the groundwork for the decarbonisation of the global economy and the path to countries’ setting national net-zero targets. Last year, in Egypt, COP27 made a commitment to the creation of a loss-and-damage fund to compensate communities that have suffered losses and damage from climate change (News, 25 November 2022).

One of the tasks on the agenda in Dubai is for this fund to be made operational and funded by richer nations responsible for the greatest carbon emissions.

At every COP meeting, faith leaders play a part, observing the negotiations, lobbying delegates, and speaking at side events. This year, faith communities will be more prominent because there is a dedicated faith pavilion.

Laura Young, a Tearfund ambassador and climate scientist, welcomed the addition of the faith pavilion, and the recognition of the part that Churches play in dealing with the impact of climate change.

“Church and faith-based organisations globally are championing the cause of the vulnerable and stepping in to respond to the impact of the climate crisis,” she said. “Crucially, Dhurches and faith communities are present before, during, and after disasters. They have an essential role to play in strengthening the resilience of their local communities in the face of disasters.”

It is yet to be seen whether the crisis in Gaza will affect this year’s summit; some observers suspect that it could cause tensions between the United States and Arab nations. The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Martha Jarvis, said: “We are particularly grateful to be hosted by the Archbishop of Jerusalem and Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Hosam Naoum. With global attention on the situation in the Holy Land, it will be powerful to account with him for the links between conflict and climate change, and how the Church can be a voice of justice and reconciliation in our international politics.”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

Comment: COP28 should make good on climate-change commitments, writes Graham Usher

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