For whom the bell tolls

Lack of political will and exaggerated expectations could explain the failure to achieve a fair, binding and ambitious agreement at the Copenhagen Conference.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu began the concluding prayer at the ecumenical service on Sunday December the 13th, Copenhagen Cathedral bells started to ring, 350 times. Simultaneously, hundreds of Churches in Denmark joined the Cathedral bells – also ringing 350 times. 350 is a symbolic number for environment campaigners: 350 parts per million is deemed the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so as to avoid runaway climate change.

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Faith and the Environment: European Parliament Conference on Caritas in Veritate

Frank Turner participated in the conference in the European Parliament about the Encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” jointly organized by the European Popular Group and the Commission of the Bishops of European Union (COMECE).

Taking up a point that has been raised indirectly today, but not discussed directly, I want to add a preliminary note about ‘Catholic Social Teaching’ (henceforth ‘CST’) as a genre: about documents such as Caritas in Veritate, and how we best read them. Such documents have a key role in the Church – and have some inherent limitations, just as to choose any mode of writing is to accept certain opportunities and certain limitations. In particular, an encyclical is neither a work of political analysis, nor a work of theology as such: it is precisely teaching.

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Making aid efficient and coherent

The European Court of Auditors recently published a series of reports analysing different schemes of aid and development cooperation, and demonstrating the need for modifications affecting the EU’s future commitments.

Such tragedies as that of the Haitian earthquake tend to stimulate massively generous impulses, but longer-term questioning about how efficient is the international response. Coincidentally the European Court of Auditors has recently released three reports that focus on different dimensions of the European commitment to aid and development.

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Is alternative energy the silver lining from the Gulf oil spill?

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill may transpire to be one of the biggest man-made disasters of all time, but in a strange twist of irony, the destruction off the US coast and surrounding environment by the gushing riser oil pipe could relight the cause for alternative energy and a cleaner environment.

It seems morbid to consider anything as bad as 70,000 barrels of crude oil pumping into one of the world’s richest oceans as having a silver-lining, but in some instances it takes a thumping blow from a heavy object – in this case an oil slick the size of Delaware, and growing – for the masses to champion alternative, cleaner means. And that doesn’t just mean within the US, but across the entire world.

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Western Pacific heading for rough weather and increased landslide risk

Last 22-25 June 2010, nearly a thousand scientists gathered at the Taipei International Conference Center to discuss the current understanding about the factors that induce such extreme events. Recent findings from the work of around 4,000 scholars were presented at the Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting (http://www.agu.org/meetings/wp10/) in Taipei in the desire to understand and help with more appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

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We sink or swim together

The schedule of UN meetings before the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change shows how intense is the negotiation process: 1-12 June, UN climate negotiations in Bonn; 21-25 September, UN Climate Summit in New York; 28 September – 9 October, UN negotiations in Bangkok; 2- 6 November, final round in Barcelona; and 7 – 18 December, the Copenhagen Conference itself. We are entering a critical phase of the Copenhagen preparations at international and European level and any agreement will require energy, diplomatic skills, and generosity.

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Picking up the pieces, regaining momentum after Copenhagen

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change will resume meetings after the failure of the Copenhagen Conference. The two major issues, besides the financial instruments, are the need to conclude a legally binding agreement and to agree transparent rules to assess compliance.

Although a large majority of commentators consider the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to have been a failure, certain influential voices have stressed the value of the Conference’s agreements. Lord Stern, professor at the London School of Economics and author of a key report on the economic and social assessment of climate change, has affirmed that “this process has itself been a key part of countries stating what their intentions on emissions reductions are – countries that had not stated them before, including China and the US”.

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Climate Change Debate Rises with Pakistan Floods

“If this is not God’s wrath, what is?” 40-year-old taxi driver Bakht Zada said of the massive floods in Pakistan that have swept away his life earnings.

Speaking to IPS from Madyan city in Swat district in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Zada might pin the blame for Pakistan’s worst floods in 80 years on forces beyond humankind, but environment experts are debating whether they are linked to a much more earthly phenomenon – climate change.

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