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On the occasion of the postponed COP26: Open letters to the Presidents of the African Union, Council of the European Union, and European Commission, and to the UK Prime Minister

19 November 2020
“Our efforts to address climate change and COVID-19 are not mutually exclusive. If done right, the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis can steer us to a more inclusive and sustainable climate path. We honour those who we have lost by working with renewed commitment and continuing to demonstrate leadership and determination in addressing climate change, and building a safe, clean, just and resilient world.” – Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary

JCAM Justice and Ecology Office and Xavier Network

Committed to following the teaching that Pope Francis set out in Laudato Si’ and to promoting an ecological conversion, Jesuits in Britain, Africa, and in mission and development organizations working widely across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, wrote an open letter to African and European leaders on the occasion of the postponed COP26, originally scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK) from 9 to 19 November 2020 and postponed to 1 to 12 November 2021.

In an open letter dated 6 November 2020 to African Union (AU) President Cyril Ramaphosa, Council of the European Union (EU) President Angela Merkel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there was concern expressed on the absence of the UN climate change conference this year, what should be the 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

COP26 was postponed on account of the coronavirus global pandemic which is surging anew in second and third waves across much of the globe, and in the open letters, the Jesuits expressed that the absence of the conference in 2020 will “lure governments into diverting attention and resources away from climate change towards the immediate needs of addressing the ongoing global pandemic.”

During COP25, it was decided “that a roundtable will be held at COP26 on pre-2020 implementation and ambition, with a summary report of the roundtable serving as input to the second periodic review.” Thus COP26 is critical in the global stocktaking process, a key element of the Paris Agreement in 2015 (COP21) to review the progress of state parties towards their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming through their nationally determined contributions or NDCs. This five-minute video explains the global stocktaking process.

The preoccupation with the pandemic and the postponement of COP26 at Glasgow raise a concern that efforts to globally tackle climate change are postponed as well. With this, the Jesuits emphasize the following six points:

  1. COVID-19 is a serious problem, but climate change also continues. When billions of US dollars and Euros are released to fight coronavirus, they need to be spent in a way that adaptation, mitigation, and resilience in view of climate change is part of the package. We need a social and ecological transformation to tackle the multiple crises of our time.
  2. Africa suffers more (most?) from COVID-19 since its already existing problems of debt and poverty have been exacerbated while nothing is left to tackle the increasingly felt consequences of climate change and other plagues arising from the overuse and pollution of natural resources.
  3. Europe historically and presently belongs to the largest polluters and it has therefore to honour its commitments given at the Paris Agreement (contributing US$ 100 billion annually) and in Rio 1992 (Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility). This can be done directly via the transfer/investment of money and technology, or indirectly by assisting Africa in improving in disaster risk management (DRM) and fighting illicit financial flows (IFFs).
  4. Time is running out, tipping points are fast approaching. Hence, NDCs need to be formulated not by looking backwards to 1990 figures, but ahead to the global CO2 budget remaining before the 1.5/2 degrees Celsius threshold is irrevocably crossed.
  5. Here, synergy between Europe and Africa can be developed. For example, helping Africa leapfrog the fossil industry is more effective to combat climate change than “cheating” through exporting dirty industry to poor countries, thus polishing its own statistics by merely shifting the problem.
  6. Therefore, given the problems in the global, UN-sponsored COP process, the Jesuits argue for speeding up an Enhanced AU-EU cooperation.

The open letters can be accessed at the websites of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) and Xavier Network. For further information and inquiries, please get in touch with:

Charles Chilufya SJ – Director, Justice and Ecology Office, JCAM in Nairobi, Kenya through Whatsapp: +254 786584784 or Skype: cchilufya_1

Fernando Saldivar SJ – Global Policy Officer, Justice and Ecology Office, JCAM in Nairobi, Kenya through Whatsapp: +254 759174927 or Skype: fcsaldivar

Dr. Jörg Alt SJ – Advocacy Officer, Xavier Network, c/o Jesuitenmission Deutschland, Nürnberg, Germany through phone: +49 911 2346189 or email: alt(at)jesuitenmission.de

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