Gearing up for Climate Change: Paris and the UN Climate talks
Pax Christi France held its annual study day in Paris on Climate Change in March with 200 participants. Present were 3 Justice and Peace members from England, with a view to establishing links ahead of the COP 21 UN Climate talks in Paris in December. Barbara Kentish and Francis McDonagh from Westminster Justice and Peace, with Ann Kelly, administrator of the National Justice and Peace Network, were hoping to add Justice and Peace support to French groups working to raise awareness of the importance of the talks.
Using Pope Benedict’s 2010 message, ‘If you want peace, protect creation’, speakers spelt out what needed to be changed to ensure humanity’s very survival in the coming decades. ‘Never before till this century’, said Dominique Lang, Assumptionist father and chaplain to Pax Christi France, ‘has the human family come together to reflect on its own future on the planet’. Challenges for all Western countries at the Paris talks will be not only to convince climate sceptics, but to raise climate change as a much higher priority on our political agendas, so that agreement can be reached to curtail carbon emissions before global warming becomes irreversible. Participants were reminded that for poorer countries climate change is not a future danger, but present scourge. Countries affected -Vanuatu, Philippines, Tonga, Guatamala and Bangladesh being the most vulnerable – are already suffering flooding, hurricanes and typhoons. It is important to accept that these and other countries of the ‘south’ need to develop, but must be supported to do so without fossil fuels
Bishop Marc Stenger, president of Pax Christi France, together with Christian journalists and scientists, called for an ‘ecological conversion’, amongst Christians, saying,
“We think it is necessary that Christians finally play their full part in the global combat for the respect for life, and become committed both spiritually and practically alongside environmental activists.”
Theologian and biologist Fabien Revol sketched out a Christian approach to the ‘end of a world’, in which hundreds of species have become extinct, resources have become depleted, oceans polluted, and land flooded. The ‘new heaven and new earth’ of Revelation promises Christ’s resurrection of all of creation. Our task is to attend to, to protect and to collaborate with God’s creation in all its becoming and all its integrity.
The French bishops are formulating their plans to welcome possibly thousands of ‘climate pilgrims’ for the Paris talks. There will be an ecumenical gathering in Notre Dame Cathedral on December 3rd, and an interfaith gathering is also planned. Pilgrimages will arrive from Germany, Italy, the UK, Scandinavia, and Africa. Dominique Lang stressed the need for awareness-raising amongst those from developing countries, since some of these are and will be the first to be affected by climate change.
Justice and Peace Westminster has joined the Pray and Fast for the Climate initiative and are planning a Pilgrimage to Paris along with other Christians, inspired by the World Council of Churches initiative, led by Martin Kopp.
See http://rcdow.org.uk/diocese/justice-and-peace/ for details.