The United Nations climate talks (also known as the Conference of Parties or COP), that were scheduled to have taken place in Glasgow in 2020, will now take place 1-12 November 2021. COP26 will be biggest summit ever hosted in the UK – Covid permitting – with around 30,000 attendees expected.
It is the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. That is because COP26 is the first summit when countries must report back on their progress since the Paris Agreement and set out more ambitious goals for ending their contribution to climate change.
1-12 November Civil Society Convergence Spaces – creative hubs across Glasgow where activists can gather and connect together, warm up with food and drink, book meeting rooms, produce artwork and socialise. https://cop26coalition.org/
5-6 November Days of Action in Glasgow and across the UK
7-9 November Alternative Summit in Glasgow in-person and online
WALKING TO COP26
Young Christian Climate Network www.yccn.uk Cornwall to Glasgow 13 June – 30 October
Father Tom O’Brien, Parish Priest of Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew, Hitchin, and member of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave the following address at the online interfaith service to mark the start of London Climate Action Week “Take Care for our common home” on 27th June 2021.
Coming together as we are today, united in a passionate concern for our common home and sharing our insights and beliefs, is precisely what Pope Francis wanted to happen when, in 2015, he wrote a letter to everyone in the world called Laudato Si or Praise be to you. Recognising that we face a catastrophic crisis, Pope Francis publicly proclaimed and clarified our deep concern for the destruction happening to our planet. He also recognised that this crisis can only be addressed together and globally. Whatever our differences of faith or of non-faith, we are all united in our growing concern for the future of our planet. The letter spells out the challenges we face clearly and succinctly and also recognises that we need to act now before it’s too late.
We believe that God called us to be stewards of creation which Pope Francis summarises as cultivating, ploughing, working, as well as caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving the natural world. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. It is a call to work with a creation that is only too willing to work with us.
The letter recognises that: “We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment” (#141).
Throughout the letter care for the earth is conjoined with care for the poor. They are indispensably connected. Laudato Si: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: ‘Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest'” (#48).
Our exploitation and abuse of the resources of the earth have led to increased Tsunamis, a continuing global rise in temperature that affects climate in a way that the poor, who depend on the land for sustenance, face long term droughts leading to a lack of clean water and starvation (25,000 a day, UN). Seeking survival leads them into underpaid jobs in which they are exploited, their basic rights are ignored and their freedom denied, so that we can have cheaper food and cheaper clothes to which they have no access. Laudato Si states There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology” (#118).
We are called to an inner conversion to a radical change in lifestyle, to living more simply, being less wasteful, to recycle and re-use, to be more generous to those in need. We must urgently lobby the government not to decrease our overseas support aid and even increase it.
Some of the fastest growing businesses in America are in energy efficiency and renewable energy helping produce the same output for half the energy.”
Businesses, who promote sustainability through the supply chain, have reduced their costs. They see pollution as a form of waste.
An organization that doesn’t waste anything is proved to be more efficient and more profitable.
Young people, led by the likes of Greta Thunberg, are calling for and fighting for a radical reduction in Co2 emissions. The recent G7 meeting has committed to fading out the use of fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.
Being positive and hopeful is actually an important way to combat climate change. “We must look toward our positive shared future. The more we articulate the ability to get to that place, the more likely we are to get there.”
Expression of Hope;
Encouragingly, in Laudato Si, Pope Francis adds:
“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing what is good, and making a new start, whatever their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us. (#205)”
This was the first time London Climate action week had held an interfaith service and it was organised by South London interfaith group and Faiths Forum for London. Among the wide range of speakers there was humanist Richard Norman and pagan Robin Horne. Dr Ruth Valerio of Tearfund, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Zahra Kanani from Streatham mosque, Zoroastrian Vista Khosravi, Robert Harrap General director of SGI-UK, Sikh Balbir Singh Bakshi and Jain Varsha Dodhia all spoke about what there faith teaches about Creation and some of the practical actions their communities have undertaken. Bishop Karowei Dorgu, Anglican Bishop of Woolwich spoke about Southwark as an eco-diocese and what parishes are doing.
How often do we notice the trees in places familiar to us?..
Why is it important to do so?..
And what does care of trees have to do with our faith?..
On Sunday 27 June, I joined a group finding out about trees in the vicinity of Westminster Cathedral. I’ve visited the area many times since childhood, but hardly noticed them before now.
This was an event as part of London Climate Action Week. The experience, organised by Westminster Justice and Peace, was special because it seems to be the first time that valuing trees was firmly on the agenda of a diocesan body.
It seemed strange to be gathering outside the Cathedral under a banner, ‘Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral,’ but it shouldn’t have been. Care of Creation is an element of Catholic Social Teaching, all underlined by the 2015 Encyclical, Laudato Si’.
Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator, led the two-hour walk. She reflected on the importance of trees within Christian tradition and invited contemplation of some of the many beautiful trees within easy walking distance of Westminster Cathedral.
As we strolled, we were encouraged to think about the nature and purpose of trees, especially their role in maintaining a stable climate that enables all life Earth to exist and thrive. Trees bind soil, remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, as well as providing a home for many species of birds and insects. Along the way we considered, too, the significance we attach to trees – from the solemn prayer before the wood of the Cross to the celebratory decoration of Christmas trees.
When we met outside Westminster Cathedral’s West Door we were immediately invited to admire the two mature London Plane trees in the piazza. Plane was widely planted as a street tree during the 18th and 19th centuries, being sturdy and suitable for city life for many reasons. It requires little root space and can survive in most soils and a wide range of temperatures. One of these two trees provided welcome shade for my son James who spent a number of hours standing with young people from dioceses around England and Wales waiting to see Pope Benedict during his visit in 2010. The Westminster youth contingent was under the Plane tree nearest the West Door, and he was very grateful.
We learnt that more than half of London’s eight million trees are Planes and they provide the important service of removing pollution from the atmosphere. The mottled olive, brown and grey bark breaks away in large flakes to reveal new cream-coloured bark underneath, a process which cleanses the tree of pollution stored in the outer bark. Each year London’s trees remove 2,241 tonnes of pollution which is a major contribution to public health.
When we moved off down Morpeth Terrace we passed rows of Plane trees and stopped at the end under a statue of St Francis of Assisi for a short reflection and prayer. Then there was Willow Place, named after Willow trees that were formerly common here. And Ginkgo in Rochester Road, a tree which survived the dinosaurs and the ice age, and, Colette told us, was the first tree to recover in Hiroshima after the city was destroyed by a nuclear bomb in August 1945. Then we walked around Vincent Square, a 13-acre green space lined with mature trees including London Plane. In Rutherford Street we admired the Silver Birches, whose white bark reflects heat and whose tolerance to pollution makes them a common sight in urban landscapes. Silver Birches also provides food and habitat to more than 300 insect species.
By gardens near the Cardinal Hume Centre we heard the tenth century, ‘The Dream of the Rood’ and heard how trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. 56 Bible verses talk about trees.
We crossed Victoria Street and sat down in a grassy area for a short reflection on what trees mean to us. “Daily walks in the trees of Dulwich Wood got me though Covid” said one person. “This walk is a spiritual journey, about making a connection with trees,” said another.
“They’re the lungs of the world,” and “we must learn to keep the mature trees, not just plant new ones,” seemed to be common concerns about global deforestation and the HS2 project in particular in Britain. One member of the group lamented the disruption around Euston Station where she lives and has seen several public gardens destroyed and trees axed. We considered the quote from JRR Tolkien on our flier: ‘Every tree has its enemy, few have an advocate. In all my works I take the part of trees against all their enemies.’
Of course, London used to be covered in forest. This is reflected in the fact that so many parts of London are named after trees and woods. There’s the three Oaks (Burnt, Gospel and Honor), Nine Elms, Royal Oak Station, Wood Green, Forest Hill and Forest Gate.
Our final stop was St James’ Park, a green gem of 57 acres and we stopped to admire a Black Mulberry, Weeping Beech and a Caucasian Wingnut! There are around 1,250 individual trees in St James’s Park from around 35 species. The two islands in the lake, with their secluded woodlands and shrubberies, serve as nesting sites and refuges for birds. As we watched the ducks and geese waddling between the trees we thanked Colette profusely for this beautiful experience.
The walk was so successful that she has organised another one on 5 September! Several people have booked in already.
The G7 meeting did produce some good news for our common home, but right now, to be honest, good isn’t good enough. We need bold leadership. We need inspiring action, and we need prophetic agreements from world leaders.
As Catholics, we owe it to our sisters and brothers around the globe to make sure that world leaders do better later this year. At the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), scheduled for October in China, global leaders will have the opportunity to set meaningful and robust targets to protect creation.
In November, at the United Nations 26th annual Climate Change Conference (COP26), countries must announce their plans to meet the goals of the historic 2015 Paris agreement.
Between now and October, it’s our responsibility as Catholics to make sure world leaders know how to care for God’s creation.
In the petition we’re calling for leaders to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis together, and to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, among other must-dos.
Truro Cathedral hosted an online ‘act of witness’ this evening, on the eve of the G7 summit. Participants sent messages to world leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States that people of faith in the UK and internationally expect the leaders at their summit in Cornwall to put in place plans for a global green recovery from Covid-19 and other crises.
The event was organised by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision, Islamic Relief and Faith for the Climate Network. Speakers were from faith groups and from communities affected by the coronavirus, climate, and debt crises globally. Young campaigners who had travelled to Cornwall for the G7 summit were among around 80 people in the Cathedral but more than 1,000 joined online. Afterwards, CAFOD provided an online message board where anybody could send a message online to the leaders.
Ruth Valerio, Canon Theologian of Rochester Cathedral, welcomed everybody and homed in on the issues of vaccines, debt cancellation and climate action. She felt the G7 and COP26 in Glasgow in November provide, “huge opportunities for us to leave the damaging track we have been on.” Some hands of the ‘waves of hope’ initiative were waved in the cathedral.
Fr Augusto Zampini of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission called for better international access to vaccines and the suspension of intellectual property rights, which have held up vaccine distribution. He urged the cancellation of the debts of poor countries and called on G7 leaders, “to take seriously the commitment to care for our common home and implement the Paris Agreement of 2015”. He felt, we must “use creativity to improve our relationship with ecosystems” and “do our best to change this course of ecological destruction.”
Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam of Salisbury urged for political leaders “to put aside selfish concerns and work for the world’s common good.” He wanted the UK government to reinstate the full foreign aid budget which was reduced last year. His focus was a call for spiritual change and to rebuild human relationship with creation and the creator. “We cannot depend on techno-optimism” he suggested. Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth received a clap when, quoting from Laudato Si’, he said the Catholic Church stood alongside other denominations and faiths in listening “to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He urged a reduction in consumption, work for change in the direction of justice, and community conversion to act for the common good. And he touched on the need for structural change, particularly re-evaluating the current model of economic growth which promotes inequality and commodification of the environment.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and a young Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist called for moves towards a more sustainable relationship with nature. Andy Norfolk, Pagan representative from the Cornwall Faiths Forum, said faiths, “should find it easy to find a vision for a better world” and urged G7 leaders to look beyond short-termism and urgently address long term challenges. Davina Bacon of the Young Christian Climate Network spoke of the young people’s relay walk to Glasgow, starting on Sunday, recalling that “the tradition of pilgrimage is strong in many faiths.” She also highlighted that near the affluent G7 conference centre and local holiday homes around St Ives live many people on low incomes. She told the G7, “when you are making decisions – remember those made poor by systemic injustice; they don’t have a seat at your table.”
CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) is live-streaming an event organised in conjunction with Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision, Islamic Relief and Faith for the Climate on Thursday 10th June at 7.00-8.00pm
It will be hosted by Truro Cathedral for people of faith to reflect ahead of the G7 summit and send a message to world leaders.
The G7 summit will see heads of government of seven of the world’s richest countries – including President Joe Biden – travel to Cornwall and discuss how the world can rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a crucial role to play, with the UK holding the presidency of the G7, CAFOD wants to send a message to him and the other G7 leaders that people of faith in the UK and around the world expect them to put in place plans for a global and green recovery from the crisis which leaves no one behind.
The pandemic means people can’t all travel to Cornwall to send this message to the leaders at the summit.
Join Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator, for a circular Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral, 3-5pm on Sunday 27th June.
Families and children welcome. Free.
Colette will help us reflect on the importance of trees within the Christian tradition and invite contemplation of some of the many beautiful trees within easy walking distance of Westminster Cathedral. As we walk, we will think about the nature and purpose of trees, especially their role in maintaining a stable climate that enables all life on land to exist and thrive.
Trees are essential to life on earth as we know it. They bind soil, remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, as well as providing a home for many species from birds to insects to squirrels.
Along the way we will consider, too, the significance we attach to trees – from the celebratory decoration of the Christmas tree to the solemn prayer before the wood of the cross.
Pope Francis’ has produced a video to introduce the new Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which is intended to aid Catholics worldwide take action to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies we are currently facing.
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is offered by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development as a service to the universal Catholic Church and to “all men and women of good will.” (LS 3)
It features advice and resources for seven sectors:
Families and Individuals
Parishes and Dioceses
Organisations and Groups
Businesses, Farms and Co-operatives
More resources will be developed for the Platform as time goes on.
Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.
Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ (207)
For the six Thursdays of Lent 2021, hundreds of people from across the country joined together online for a Lent course exploring the theme of care for our common home as developed in the films Global Healing and Global Caring, with the help of a panel of expert speakers. The series was facilitated by the UK Laudato Si’ Animators from the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Each session is accompanied by a hand-out with helpful ideas and information for follow-up action, prayer and reflection, designed to help us unite around the common goal of hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor – the very heart of the encyclical Laudato Si’ and the gospel imperative to all Christians and people of goodwill. We hope you will join us in the task that lies ahead in this deeply significant year as the UK government hosts the UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow 1-12 November 2021.
Join others from the Dioceses of Westminster and Southwark for an online meeting to plan and discuss a Central London Catholic contribution to London Climate Action Week (26th June – 4th July) and the Season of Creation (1st September – 4th October) as we build up to the critical UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow (1st – 12th November 2021)
Art? Crafts? Drama? Prayer? Workshops? Walks? Speakers? Conferences? Liturgy? What do we need to do to demonstrate our care and concern for people and planet that promotes climate ambition on the part of the UK government and other world leaders? Come and help us do our bit to save the planet this summer.
‘Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.’