Recent Global CO2 trend: 417.89 ppm, 27 October; 417.90 ppm, 28 October; 417.90 ppm, 29 October; 417.91 ppm, 30 October; 417.91 ppm, 31 October (last updated 1 November 2022). These figures are the “daily averaged CO2 from four GML Atmospheric Baseline observatories; Barrow, Alaska (in blue), Mauna Loa, Hawaii (in red), American Samoa (in green), and South Pole, Antarctica (in yellow). The thick black lines represent the average of the smoothed seasonal curves and the smoothed, de-seasonalized curves for each of the records. These lines are a very good estimate of the global average levels of CO2.” (Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML), Earth System Research Laboratories)
Pedro Walpole SJ
This year’s climate conference (COP27) will have the US and European leaders in attendance, indicating a willingness to re-build and to commit in an integral way to political-economic relations long overdue and necessary in responding to the climate crisis. At the same time, the call of a personal faith in struggling with climate realities is an important dimension that needs to be put forward in living out an integral ecology.
The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is being held at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this month “with a view to building on previous successes and paving the way for future ambition to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change.” There is hope that the intentions of countries may be acted on because of a greater political presence and in turn may respond to the fears of those suffering from climate disasters.
COP26 wrapped up with many loopholes that can be exploited in the limited agreements, most notably the last-minute change from ‘coal phase out’ to ‘coal phase down’ in the Glasgow Climate Pact. The agreement in the Pact is “to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and phase down unabated coal power.” With the war in Ukraine, these commitments can be presumed to be further lowered.
With COP27 held in Egypt, there is a great urgency to uplift African voices and concerns and to seriously follow through on the commitments that are way short of the mark. This includes the continuing failure of wealthy nations to deliver on the US$ 100 billion pledge on climate finance, as well as clear implementation mechanisms to compensate climate vulnerable countries for loss and damages as established in the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage in November 2013 during COP19. This amount is now an outdated estimate given the magnitude of the disasters in the last 10 years.
Loss and Damage finance will be pushed as a starting agenda by those most affected. On the sidelines of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, Pakistan (Chair of the G77) and China “expressed hope that a decision would be reached for a financial mechanism to compensate developing countries for ‘loss and damage’.. and proposed the creation of a separate loss and damage financing window by international financial institutions.” The US, the European Union, and others responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions since the last century will need to decide if they veto or agree with this proposal.
As the world continues to go through unsound transitions with inflation adversely impacting national and global economies amid the crisis in Ukraine, climate disasters are getting deadlier and more disruptive. This year alone the world witnessed the devastating flash floods in Bangladesh in May, followed by a second wave in June and affected seven million, the catastrophic floods in Pakistan in August that inundated a third of the country and affected 33 million, the severe floods in Nigeria in September described as the most devastating since over a decade and affected two million, the unprecedented drought in Somalia due to a two-year historic dry spell not experienced in more than 40 years and displacing a million people with a looming starvation, the extreme heat in the entire Northern Hemisphere this year, and the heatwaves in India and Pakistan that scientists at World Weather Attribution determined that “climate change made that event 30 times more likely.”
These realities reinforce how the COP process has not delivered in reducing vulnerability or the actual disasters impacting climate vulnerable communities. It is losing its social dynamism and ability to compel a global change.
Local and marginal communities continue to deal with the overextended impacts of a third year of La Niña that cause a rise in temperature and fire incidents in some areas, and landslides and flooding in other territories, aggravating the vulnerability of rural populations and agricultural cycles.
As His Eminence Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Besungu, Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), emphasized in a written statement, “Climate change is a moral outrage. It is a tragic and striking example of structural sin, facilitated by callous indifference and selfish greed.”
The world is greatly challenged as carbon figures continue to rise, vulnerabilities exacerbate, and the corporate lobby on climate change remain non-transparent while loss and damage commitments since COP21 are yet to materialize. The science is clear – global warming will continue to increase in all regions of the globe, leading to more frequent heat waves, intense rainfall and drought, and sea level rise.
While genuine efforts are made through the COP process, these are simply not enough compared to the gravity of the crisis and immediacy of catastrophic losses across poor countries, and this is what needs to be shaken up. It is not enough to assist those in the receiving end of the climate change impact in emissions reduction or adapting to climate change.
Compensation is the just way forward in a world that is still on track to at least 2.4 degrees C and collective action to reduce carbon production now which is at 417 ppm where 280-350 ppm is the desired amount, and remembering that this carbon is locked in the atmosphere for the next 30 years. It is important that a consolidated commitment is undertaken before COP28 at UAE next year, and COP27 is an opportunity to make good on COP26 which was a sell-out.
Climate actions in the Jesuit Conferences
As people become more conscious of the worsening impacts of a changing climate and how personal and social transformation is imperative, there is a genuine challenge on how these voices can be broadly – and coherently – included in global processes, and how the corporate political lobby can be engaged with transparency and justice.
The voices of people need to be heard directly to give witness to the suffering and strengthen the calls for greater urgency and transparency. It is also important to communicate the stories of hope which can be drawn from real actions on the ground, especially in the areas of youth engagement, policy advocacy, and climate justice. Actions in different Jesuit Conferences are increasingly seeking to link with others to heighten the message and action.
At the Conference of European Provincials, the Jesuit European Social Centre is rallying ecology-related efforts through its Workplan on Ecology, focusing on policy advocacy and lobbying in the European Union. A small but critical effort is the peaceful action of young climate activists in Germany to engage the German public in addressing the climate emergency. This is now being echoed in Britain. The fears and the hopes of the youth need to be met with more serious commitment.
At the Conferencia de Provinciales en América Latina y el Caribe (Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean), lobbying for the rights of nature and Indigenous Peoples at the policy level is gaining momentum with the 10th Pan-Amazonian Social Forum (X Foro Social Panamazónico or X FOSPA). The movement crafted the X FOSPA final declaration that calls on governments to strengthen efforts in caring for the Pan-Amazonia territory and biodiversity and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples to exercise self-determination and governance. The recent election results in Brazil bode well for the Amazon.
At the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network (JENA) and the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development are undertaking efforts to build the advocacy and lobby towards COP27, focusing on agroecology, policy advocacy, and youth mobilization through the Heal the Earth: Caravan of Hope activity. Youth from different parts of southern Africa engage in community workshops, ARTivism, road shows, and exhibits, to raise awareness of the impacts of climate-induced disasters on vulnerable populations.
From July to September, CIDSE, Caritas Africa, JENA, and other Church and civil society actors held the African Climate Dialogues to share African realities, experiences, and perspectives on key COP27-related topics. The Communiqué was recently launched that lays out key messages from the dialogues and policy demands ahead of COP27.
Through its Creators of Hope project, the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific closed this year’s Season of Creation by awarding five young people from Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines for their commitment to their ecology-related efforts. The Care for the Common Home Committee of the Australian province is accompanying Jesuit institutions in developing their Laudato Si’ Action Plans and monitoring their ecological footprints.
At the Jesuit Conference of the US and Canada, young people from schools and universities are being engaged through workshops and gatherings towards deeper ecological conversion and action, such as the Ignatian Justice Summit hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Santa Clara University will also be hosting a Climate and Environmental Justice Conference in 2023 to develop strategies for advancing community-driven research for broader action and collaboration. Water, climate, and food justice are among the key focus themes. At the School of Environmental Sustainability-Loyola University Chicago, its 2023 Climate Change Conference will focus on climate refugees and the impact of climate change in human migration.
And in the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, the people’s platform, Lok Manch, actively works in over 12 states across India to uphold the rights of marginalized communities to food, education, water, health, adequate housing, and climate justice, Lok Manch is mobilizing its third phase on climate and ecological justice through a project entitled Ensuring Social Protection and Building Climate-Resilient Communities across 13 states in India. Youth mobilization actions through ARTivism are animated through an art camp for tribal students in Kerala.
Calling for a “renewed” civil society
Expectations for COP27 will be tested as the host country, Egypt, faces calls to take meaningful steps to tackle its human rights record even as it created its National Human Rights Strategy. The next Conference of Parties – COP28 – will be held in the United Arab Emirates with COP29 in an Eastern Europe state.
The question of how climate change concerns can be hosted in non-democratic contexts will have to be tackled as this is coupled with the blatant lack of accountability and transparency in the corporate lobbying during climate talks and negotiations, while there is much room for disillusionment for many in civil society, especially the youth, who are, and want to be, engaged in climate action and justice.
This is not just about “otherwise preventable disasters” happening, but about thousands of people dying each year and millions displaced with loss of livelihood and safety. It is about passing tipping points in the global biome that is not a matter of simply technology catching up with the complex systems so that the world can continue in its present lifestyles of the rich and poor.
Given the global media attention to the political presence in COP27, civil society’s role and willingness to raise national awareness through peaceful means have an increased value and call for greater participation and voice.
Ecojesuit will continue to share information on the process and seek out the occasions for greater hope and sustainability. The importance of active voices will also be highlighted to contribute to renewing civil society and its primary work of seeking political action at the local, national, and global to support this process and greater action.
The call of a personal faith in living out climate action: Living our faith more deeply
Given the challenges civil society is facing, an important response is for the Church to support and broaden personal and community faith to live out climate action.
Ecojesuit has a responsibility to remind us of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ call to reflect deeply on humanity and share in humble dialogue listening to all. We are called not to be led by divisive politics, but by the call of faith that gives hope beyond what is seen today and what the youth need to be part of so as to share a new vision.
This is not an avoidance or denial of the confused and conflicting reality with compromised leadership and focus, but a call to live by a deeper faith committed to the poor and to creation that is groaning from the wounds of destruction. These are the focus of our love. It is a pivotal time of faith for action, and it is not simply putting our faith in human efforts.
To have faith means absorbing with hope and acceptance (not denial or inevitability) the otherwise overpowering anxiety and exhaustion (where many of the youth are) in the face of continuing calamities. Faith is the Spirit of Jesus that is with us every day. And in the depth of it, we are never alone. Jesus accompanies us, as on the cross, silently. We join Him in His suffering for humanity not as an act of despair but of hope.
Faith brings us into contact with those suffering and reminds us not to lose hope. Faith asks us to envisage beyond and to work to resolve the challenges and bring the awareness of suffering to others.
Part of the faith challenge today is in communicating the personal and communities’ faith in struggling with disaster. We have to find the faith within ourselves, and also find and build this faith within communities who are struggling.
It is the same faith that must be communicated with the youth and they must be accompanied. The faith articulation of knowing Jesus – of empathy – is a willingness to go through the suffering, and to go on with hope not for self-preservation but for the love we share with others.
To understand this better, we start off with faith, then get to recognize a hope that we can share with others, and that leads us to realize it is actually love that brings us together. God has shared this life in us and also in the death of His Son for us. And so we feel accompanied even as we face death.
The call to faith is not a primary appeal to reason but to the ‘energy’ of being – the human spirit – that all is groaning and comes together. Yes there is death and destruction but these are not in vain. With a faith dimension, what one does is not simply understood as matter of luck or that whatever action is taken cannot determine the outcome.
A genuine commitment of the human spirit means improving on a disastrous situation, which is what we all need to do in these times of climate and other global crises. Doing something with a faith dimension forms community and helps communities come through with a disaster and we need to find helpful ways to express and encourage.
The connection of faith at the very point of disaster should give us strength. The connection of faith in calling for socio-political-economic actions and care for our common home should strengthen our call for a more just recognition of those who are actually suffering and losing their lives in the disasters. And the need to care for the whole of creation is because we understand in our faith the salvation of all Creation as we live an integral ecology.