The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, joins with leaders from the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Methodist Church in Great Britain in responding to the conclusion of the COP26 summit held in Glasgow.
Significant new statements have been made at the summit in Glasgow. Most government delegations accept that the sense of urgency is greater than it was six years ago at Paris. But ultimately, the summit has not delivered. All governments must agree on the necessary actions to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming. The failure of all parties at COP26 to unequivocally support this higher ambition with funding and emission reductions is an injustice towards those whose livelihoods have already been devastated by climate change.
We are deeply disappointed that the language on phasing out coal was weakened at the last moment, although the summit has called for the phasing out of ‘inefficient’ subsidies for fossil fuels. COP26 has also initiated a process to create a fund to help communities recover from loss and damage resulting from severe climatic events. These developments are crucial and welcome, but we cannot wait for pledges to be reviewed and turned into action every five years. Action must be taken now. The pace and intensity of action must keep up with the science and with the realities experienced by an increasing number of people whose flourishing – now and in the future – depends on the actions that we all take today.
Many of our church partners in developing countries are already experiencing the dire impact of changing weather patterns on livelihoods and food security. As he arrived as a delegate at COP26, the Revd James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, said that for many in the Pacific Islands Psalm 137 with its reference to being ‘by the rivers of Babylon …’ has particular resonance. As these communities face exile they experience a sense of loss of identity, sovereignty, and future. At COP26, our Churches have listened to and sought to amplify the voices of those in the global south who are critically affected by loss through changing climates.
Our Churches acknowledge that while we live in an age of individuality and immediacy, this is a journey not of individuals but of a community: the people of God and the people of the earth. Whilst individual actions are important, this is a journey that requires us to work together to build a safe and healthy future for all. The involvement of so many sectors of society in COP26 was an inspiration. Sadly, the response of governments is not yet adequate, and we call for further actions that respond meaningfully to the magnitude of the emergency that we face.
The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
The Barbara Easton, Vice-President of the Methodist Church in Britain
The Revd Sonia Hicks, President of the Methodist Church in Britain
The Revd Lynne Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Revd Dr Dave Gregory, Convenor of the Baptist Union Environmental Network