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COP28 to host Pope Francis and faith space

10 November 2023

Alamy

Pope Francis meets Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, president-designate of COP28, at the Vatican last month

Pope Francis meets Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, president-designate of COP28, at the Vatican last month

POPE FRANCIS is to make the first papal visit to a UN climate summit when he attends COP28, in Dubai next month.

Representatives from different faiths have always had a presence at the COP meetings, with many church leaders acting as observers of the negotiations, speaking at side events, and advocating on behalf of believers and non-believers who are suffering from the impacts of climate change. This year, however, there will be a Faith Pavilion, the first such dedicated space at one of these summits.

The Pope has made environmental protection a theme of his papacy since his encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015 (News, 26 June 2015), before COP2, at which the Paris Agreement was struck. Announcing his intention to attend COP28, the Pope told Italy’s state-run television network: “Our future is at stake, the future of our children and our grandchildren. A bit of responsibility is needed.”

This year is predicted to be the hottest year on record as greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise. One of the issues to be discussed at COP28 is how those affected by rising seas, more severe droughts, and other effects of climate change can adapt. Last week, the UN Environment Programme published its annual Adaptation Gap report, which calculates the gap between the funds needed by vulnerable nations to meet the requirements of adaptation, and the funds made available for this by rich countries that have generated high emissions.

This year’s report suggests that the gap is larger by one half than previously thought, and that the adaptation needs are now ten to 18 times as great as the flows of international public finance.

Tearfund’s global-campaigns associate, Jessica Bwali, who is based in Zambia, said that the impact of this year’s rising temperatures was being felt across Southern Africa: “Extreme weather is fuelling the rising cost of living all around the world. Each year, the ‘adaptation gap’ widens, as the UN Environment Programme’s annual report shows. This year, in Zambia, the price of maize flour, our staple food, is very high, and there isn’t enough to export to neighbouring countries who rely on our usual surplus.”

Countries such as the UK, the eighth-highest emitter historically, needed to do more, she said. “The world’s richest nations, including the UK, have failed to deliver on their climate finance commitments in time to prevent the adaptation gap from widening further.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen an escalation of climate impacts. We urgently need an escalation of action to match the level of this crisis. The climate summit in Dubai must be the moment that leaders of wealthy and high-emitting countries ensure support reaches the most vulnerable communities in a fair, reliable, and transparent way.”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

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