What is COP?
The Glasgow meeting is COP26, the 26th meeting of all 154 countries who signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. This committed the signatory nations to seek scientific advice and, through regular meetings, introduce policy to allow ecosystems to adapt to a changing climate, to take measures to secure the global food supply, and make future economic growth sustainable.
At COP21 in Paris in 2015, 196 participating countries created an agreement that reflected the participation of all, rather than just a handful. On Earth Day 2016 in the UN headquarters in New York 164 nations formally signed the protocol binding themselves into the mechanisms agreed in Paris. Under the agreement every nation, no matter how developed, must regularly determine its emissions, plan a response to reduce them and submit this report to the UN.
This is an ongoing process. As our climate changes and we experience increasingly erratic global weather patterns, the COP meetings allow governments and other groups to gather to exchange ideas and commit to new efforts and initiatives. One example of this is the recent commitment made by the US government to double the amount they give to climate mitigation funds under the COP agreements. This means an extra $5.7 billion to go to poorer nations to help protect themselves from the effects of climate. Ultimately the Paris agreement is a promise to face this crisis together, as a global community.
How has the Church been responding?
As a web of communities, reaching from the financial heights of New York and London to the villages of Fiji in the Pacific, the Anglican Communion touches those with the most influence over the climate crisis and those powerless in the face of it. As it represents people in over 165 countries the Anglican Communion has been given observer status, giving it the opportunity to advocate for its members in the UN negotiations themselves.
It has also participated in several joint declarations over the last month, raising awareness that care for creation is a vital part of a Christian life. Archbishop Justin, Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis signed a joint declaration about care for creation and the poorest people in the world . This is the first time ever that the heads of the three largest Christian denominations, who count nearly two billion members between them, have collaborated on any statement, and shows the seriousness with which Christianity takes the climate crisis.
This was followed last week by an interfaith appeal which was given to who has been appointed Chair of the COP meeting by the UK government. It was signed by representatives from The Muslim World League, the Coptic Orthodox Church and Buddhist temples, members of the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the Lutheran World Federation and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.
International religious leaders including Archbishop Justin were present when the declaration was signed. A summary of the document says:
“We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”
The planet needs our prayers
There are many ways to get involved around the COP. Many charities will be organising protests, gatherings and information evenings. As the Church one of the greatest things we can commit to is to pray; for the success of the meetings, for our awareness of God’s presence in creation and for the courage to promote change in our lives and communities.
South Bank Churches & the Diocese of Southwark invite people of all faiths to a prayer vigil on Saturday 23 October for the success of COP26, the international conference on climate change. Details can be found here
If you cannot attend this event then the vigil will also be livestreamed, starting at 3.10pm. Click here to watch the service online
If you are looking for ways to pray around the topic of the climate negotiations at another time we highly recommend this video from Youth With A Mission, who lead you on a guided prayer walk around the area where the negotiations will be held. Helping you centre your prayer in a very real way.
You can also attend fringe events happening in the ‘green zone’ of the COP online through the COP26 YouTube feed.
Details of both the events and the YouTube channel are available here
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?”
Isaiah 40:12 (NIV)