Faith Leaders Weigh In On Copenhagen

As negotiations in Copenhagen continue, faith leaders from around the globe are weighing in their thoughts and voices through written statements and personal witness, most of them urging conference delegates to seek a binding agreement that meets emissions standards and puts the needs of poor countries first.

In a Dec. 7 letter to the prime minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the Danish minister of climate and energy Connie Hedegaard, Lutheran World Federation head the Rev. Ishmael Noko wrote, "We look to the international community meeting in Copenhagen, and to your leadership of this gathering, to produce an agreement that will ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2015 and then decline rapidly towards a target of atmospheric CO2 concentrations of less than 350 ppm as soon as possible."

"[Copenhagen] carries the hopes of the inhabitants of our entire global village, all of whom increasingly perceive the reality and challenge of climate change," Noko continued. "Most especially does this conference carry the hopes of the people at the leading edge of the climate change crisis–the poor and vulnerable whose livelihoods and lives are most immediately threatened by changing environmental conditions exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions."

A delegation from the Anglican Communion representing mostly the global south arrived in Denmark last week to strengthen representation for the developing world, which the group says is disproportionately impacted by climate change.

"We need to be sure that we have the whole world's voice," said group leader the Rev. Jeff Golliher, "because the solution ... needs to include them. They should be equal partners."

A statement published in October by the Anglican Communion Environment Network (ACEN) asked, "Is it too much to hope that every country, developed and developing, will commit to the view that what is in the world's best interest is in their best interest?"

Putting the needs of the poor first will also be the focus of a symposium on climate change from a faith perspective scheduled to be held on Dec. 13 at Copenhagen's Cathedral.

Participants in the symposium include among others the Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who is scheduled to hand over half a million signatures and pledges for climate justice to UN climate official Yvo de Boer prior to the conference.

An ecumenical celebration open to all UN climate summit participants will commence after the conference, with COP15 leaders and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in attendance. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams will preach the sermon at the event, which will be broadcast live on Danish television.

Concluding Sunday's events will be a bell ringing at 3 p.m., were churches in Denmark and around the world will ring their bells 350 times to symbolize the 350 parts per million that mark the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere according to many scientists.

"Church policies and actions on climate change are rooted in the Bible, which teaches the wholeness of God's creation and the centrality of justice in the Christian message," read a statement released by the WCC. "In addition to ecological, social, economic and political aspects, the ecumenical movement states that addressing climate change involves a spiritual dimension."

"From an ethical point of view, it regards climate change as a matter of justice, as impoverished and vulnerable communities in the global South are and will be those most affected by its consequences," the statement concludes.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News