Summit a chance to push leaders to fight climate change

Joe Gunn

JOURNEY TO JUSTICE

August 25, 2014

In September, Christians can help change the climate in Canadian environmental policy - as well as the climate in our faith communities.

In response to the global climate crisis, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of state along with business, finance, and civil society leaders to a climate summit Sept. 23 in New York.

The UN Climate Summit is part of a global effort to mobilize action and ambition on climate change. It comes just one year before countries aim to conclude a new global climate agreement at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The secretary-general has appointed former Irish President Mary Robinson as his special envoy for climate change to mobilize political will and action ahead of the climate summit. Canada's ambassador for climate change (a member of my parish) plans to be in negotiations in New York that week - but Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not.

Canada has reneged on its Kyoto Accord commitments, being the only country to pull out, and Environment Canada reports that our country is not doing enough to meet even the lower goals Ottawa set as our commitment to the 2009 Copenhagen agreement.

Will Canadians demand more forceful action from their leaders?

In July, while speaking to students in southern Italy, Pope Francis called environmental exploitation "the sin of our time." Catholics heard the pontiff speak of our duty to be "protectors" of the environment in his very first speech. He is said to be working on the first-ever encyclical on environmental issues.

Since 2003 the Canadian bishops have issued three pastoral letters on the environment - nonetheless, the Canadian bishops have yet to address climate policies. It is certainly time for the Church in Canada to deepen environmental awareness and action - most importantly at the parish level.

Internationally, faith communities are making big plans for the UN Climate Summit. The World Council of Churches has organized an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, Sept. 21-22, also in New York, to highlight the specific contributions that faith traditions bring to the international climate debate.

Environmentalists active in the 350.org movement are planning the biggest march New York has ever seen. Canadian religious will be traveling to these events.

But how can Christians have an impact here in Canada?

As our leaders meet in New York, their efforts will be encouraged by activities around the world at worship services on Sunday, Sept. 21. Christians will raise awareness, direct our prayer and take concrete action that day. If we pray about something at Mass, we communicate our belief that this is important to God, as well as the worshipping community.

INCREASED ENGAGEMENT

Living Faithfully into a New Climate is a package of materials assembled by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), to assist Canadian faith communities to highlight the importance of the September 2014 climate change events, and also to enable increased engagement in creation advocacy and care as we move towards the December 2015 COP21 meeting in Paris.

These resources will be used by many of the 25 member Christian denominations of the Canadian Council of Churches (of which CPJ is an affiliate member.)

Living Faithfully into a New Climate includes:

All of these resources are available at cpj.ca/climate.

FAITHFUL PARISHIONERS

But busy pastors might not know about these possibilities to raise the issue of climate justice unless faithful parishioners mention them. Will you invite your choir director to use creation-centered hymns that weekend?

Will you ask your priest to mention climate change in his homily - or invite a guest preacher who will? Could the sample Prayer of the Faithful be used at your service?

In several towns, families plan to advocate change by living it - by organizing in advance to leave the car at home that weekend. Some will walk to church - others will car pool with neighbours, take public transit, walk or cycle.

Change in Canada's climate policies could flow from change in practices of our faith as we express enhanced concern for creation advocacy.

(Joe Gunn is the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, www.cpj.ca, an ecumenical social advocacy organization.)