Building the will for action


'At this moment in history, we have catapulted ourselves to a crossroads of two possible paths for mankind. The direction we take cannot result from inertia but rather intentional choice. This choice will be informed by our technology, our financial systems and our policy, but it must also be indisputably steered by the overarching moral compass innate to all of us.' Christiana Figueres

The queue, snaking its way outside St Paul’s at 5.30pm on Wednesday last week, reminded me of other similar occasions, often at opportune moments in time. Over 1000 people turned up to listen to Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The evening was chaired very effectively by retired Bishop James Jones.

Christiana’s rather diminutive build was not echoed by her talk. In just over 20 minutes she covered a huge range of topics, all echoing the urgent need for change, and change led by a moral agenda. The transcript of Christiana’s talk and the full recording of the event is available on the St Paul’s Institute website. Several things really struck me.

She talked of humankind being at a crossroads with two possible paths. We have the technology and financial capacity to go either way. But the direction we take surely cannot result from inertia!!  It must be governed by moral choices.

At one point she paused and asked us all to take a very deep breath. Then she reminded us that we are the first humans in the history of the planet to breathe air with 400 ppm of carbon dioxide.

She talked widely about the scientific evidence base and the cost, both human and financial, of responding to climate change. She then talked about the global financial system, the funds invested in renewables (making them a viable and credible alternative), and the risk of stranded assets from fossil fuels. She paid tribute to groups like Operation Noah, 350.org and noted the Quakers in the UK, the first denomination to divest from fossil fuels.

She moved on to the build up to the UN COP (Conference of the Parties) in Paris next December, where the replacement to Kyoto will be agreed. This new treaty is absolutely crucial for all our futures. Huge work is being done by her team with governments all around the world to prepare for this treaty. If agreement is not reached, the implications are so serious it doesn’t really bear thinking about. She urged all of us to do all we can to play our part. For people of faith there is a need to build the confidence, political space and urgency for action based on moral and ethical principles. (You will be encouraged to know that Operation Noah trustees are involved in preparing for a global year of prayer in the build-up to the Paris meetings – launching in November this year.)

There were three other speakers, including Dr Tony Juniper, and the opportunity for questions from the floor. Bishop James finished the evening by asking for a moment of silent reflection for each of us to consider our own response. What will yours be during these crucial 18 months in the build-up to the Paris conference in December 2015? Together as Christians, it would make a massive impact for churches to speak out clearly, to lead the way in disinvestment from fossil fuels and in praying for success in the Paris COP.

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Isabel Carter, Chair of Operation Noah