COP21 delegation prepares to advocate church’s climate policies in Paris

By Lynette Wilson
Posted Dec 4, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] As United Nations member states meet just outside Paris to construct and international agreement aimed at transitioning the world toward resilient, low-carbon societies and economies, an Episcopal delegation prepares to take its place alongside other civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

The eight-member delegation scheduled to arrive Dec. 5 is representing Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society at COP21, or the Conference of Parties, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An estimated 40,000 people, including heads of state, delegates, business leaders, representative of non-government organizations and activists are scheduled to be present at the talks or the offsite events.

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)

The delegates, on behalf of The Episcopal Church, will advocate for the following:

  • A strong agreement that will reduce global carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, in consonance with The Episcopal Church’s General Convention Resolution 2009-D031.
  • A just agreement in which all member states contribute their fair share to lowering global carbon emissions, accounting for the economic and environmental realities within each state.
  • That member states fully implement a mechanism to address long-term loss and damage that accounts for needs of particularly vulnerable populations such as internally displaced persons and those rendered stateless.
  • That governments leverage public and private funding for carbon emission reduction while maintaining sufficient oversight of these processes to ensure that low-income countries are not harmed.
  • That governments act swiftly to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal No.13 on Climate Action and its five targets, which support and complement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

“As a delegation we are holding up the policies that came out of General Convention resolutions related to climate change,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, during a Dec. 3 webinar hosted by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Public Policy Network.

“This is a feature of our church that we should be proud of,” he said, adding that The Episcopal Church’s General Convention works in a democratic way to pass justice-oriented resolutions.

Andrus, who arrived in France ahead of the rest of the delegation, spoke to the webinar’s attendees via telephone as he and Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe were entering Notre Dame Cathedral for an ecumenical service for the protection of creation organized by the Council of Christian Churches in France.

Each day, in the green zone, the area designated for civil society organizations and activists participating in the offsite events, Andrus is holding a public Eucharist, including prayer, scripture reading and meditation, as well as passing out prayer cards focused on “reconciliation,” “reverence,” “compassion” and “forgiveness”: spiritual values that help meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the years, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has passed a number of resolutions related to addressing climate change and its effects. The following, however, are particularly relevant to the COP21 negotiations.

From 2012, BO23, “Seek Environmental Justice,” and D055, “Advocate for Reducing Climate Change Emission.” And, from 2015, C045, “Environmentally Responsible Investing.

Earlier this year, from March 24 to April 22, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society carried out 30 Days of Action, an interactive campaign that included advocacy days, bulletin inserts, stories, sermons and activities to engage individuals and congregations around climate change. The campaign began with a webcast to raise awareness about the climate change crisis.

If member states are able to negotiate an agreement to keep global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius (36 F) of warming it would be the first-ever binding, international treaty in 20 years of United Nations climate talks, and would affect developed and developing countries.

During the webinar, Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society explained that the 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise the generally agreed upon climate policy target. “Anything beyond that could be catastrophic,” she said.

World leaders attempted a similar agreement to limit greenhouse gases in during the climate talks held in Copenhagen in 2009, but failed to adopt a treaty.

In addition to Andrus, the presiding bishop’s team of delegates includes, Princess Daazhraii Johnson, climate activist and former executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee; the Rev. Brandon Mauai a deacon from the Diocese of North Dakota, former Executive Council member; the Rev. Very Mark Richardson, president and dean of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific; and Bill Slocumb, director of Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers. Also with the delegation are Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff members Alex Baumgarten, director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication; Hafner, the domestic policy analyst; and Lynnaia Main, officer for global relations.

On the international level, the delegation’s advocacy approach is aimed engaging U.N. negotiators, and at the national level at members of Congress and promoting grassroots support; the latter two being key to the implementation of an agreement and ongoing advocacy, said Main.

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– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. She will accompany the delegation to Paris and provide coverage via the news service and social media.