Faith-based organisations meet parallel to COP19: We need to inspire people, politicians and civil society to respond to climate change in a sustainable way, and to not allow for the weakest to be left out of the negotiations!

(c) CIDSE

(c) CIDSE

On the 18th and 19th of November 2013, member of EYCE’s Executive Committee Mr. Jakub Niewiadomski and EYCE office volunteer Ms. Pauline Rosselin attended the International conference on climate change: Faith actors working towards climate justice co-organised by CIDSE, Caritas Poland and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. The conference took place in Warsaw, Poland.

This conference was gathering representatives of many faith-based organisations , representatives of NGO, experts on climate change and politicians, all coming from all around the world.

Organised in parallel to the Conference of the Parties (COP19) climate negotiations, the aim of the conference was to share testimonies on how climate change is already affecting people, to discuss the role of the faith-based organisations in facing consequences of the climate change , and to organise a cooperation between faith communities.

The conference was opened with the greetings from the co-organisers of the event and with dedication to the victims of the typhoon in Philippines.

During the main panel discussion, speakers from various backgrounds and fields of expertise reminded that the most vulnerable people affected by the climate change and environmental challenges are also the poorest and the weakest people, who are already facing the economic and social crisis, in many parts of the world.

An assessment was made regarding the outcomes of the former COP negotiations, such as in Rio, Kyoto and Copenhagen, as well as the future challenges of the upcoming COP in Lima (2014), and in Paris (2015) were regularly mentioned.
Debates were fed with scientific data, so that the participants had solid basis of the criteria to evaluate the climate change, e.g. sea-level, average temperature, etc. This expertise was brought to the conference by the Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Professor of the Louvain Catholic University, Mr. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele.

To highlight the specific context in Poland, the President of the Institute for Sustainable Development in Poland, Mr. Andrzej Kassenberg, presented the “2050.pl : the journey to the low-emission future”, a report showing the long term benefits for Poland of turning from coal based energy to renewable energy.

Testimonies from various places in the world (Ie.g. India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Scotland) brought input of how people already deal with climate change. Many initiatives were presented, showing strong collaborations between different faith-based organisations. Rev. Ireneusz Lukas, director of the Polish Ecumenical Council presented the “Appeal of Polish Churches for the Protection of Creation”, a statement on the respect of the integrity of Creation, co-signed by the Polish Baptist union, the Evangelical church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) in Poland, he Evangelical Methodist church in Poland, the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland, the Polish Catholic church, the Old Catholic Mariavite church in Poland, the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox church and the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic church.

During discussions, it was highlighted that not only the environmental crisis is linked to the current economic and social crisis, but also with the crisis of values. It was pointed out that this is where faith-based organisations have an important role to play, and that collaboration between denominations and religions is absolutely required.

The role of Christian communities in relation to climate change and environmental issues was discussed, e.g. lack of emphasis of the Christian background within Christian environmental organisations was pointed out.

The second day of the conference started with a mass, where the prayers were related to the protection of Creation and support to the weakest.

(c) CIDSE

(c) CIDSE

This was followed by the workshops on two themes: Civil society work for climate justice and Best practice examples and interreligious dialogue. Both of EYCE representatives attended the interreligious dialogue workshop. The work started by the inputs from Somboon Chungprampree, Executive Secretary of International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), illustrating their work regarding climate change and environmental issues, and their cooperation with Christian organisations. In the following discussion representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox church, Brahma Kumaris, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and many others took part. The conclusion of the workshop was that faith-based organisations need to find a strong common voice as a global faith community to face climate change consequences. In addition to this, the LWF youth representatives talked about their action during the COP19: “Fasting for the climate change”. They shared their dream that all the religious leaders will meet in next COP meeting in Lima in 2014 and bring their voices together regarding climate change.

To conclude the conference, participants agreed that the faith-based organisations have to come together in a single movement to bring the human and spiritual side of climate change to the negotiation table. Their role is to support and help the most vulnerable people facing the climate change. There is a need for leadership from faith-based communities in order to inspire people, politicians and civil society to respond to climate change in a sustainable way, and to not allow for the weakest to be left out of the negotiations.