By Rev. Susan Hendershot, Interfaith Power & Light
Sitting at the opening of COP28 in Dubai today, I was reflecting on a variety of questions that I have heard as I was preparing for this trip. Why is this United Nations Climate Conference being held in the United Arab Emirates, an oil-producing country in the Middle East? Why is the head of a major Emirati oil company serving as the president of this year’s COP? What are the implications for the phasing out of fossil fuels, which needs to be accomplished if we are to have a prayer of holding to the Paris goal of 1.5 degrees Celcius?
I haven’t landed upon any clear answers. These are all questions that need to be considered as we create the path forward in our quest to save people and planet from the most devastating consequences of climate change. And there are clear moral implications for all of us as those who live lifestyles dependent upon these very same fossil fuels.
Simon Stiell, the UN’s climate chief, said in his remarks that, “We are standing at a precipice. If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people’s lives.”
That’s why faith-based organizations, like Interfaith Power & Light and many of our partners, are here at COP28 and have been attending these conferences for many years. We recognize that as Observer organizations, we have a role and a responsibility to urge negotiators to increase ambition and close the gap between where we are today and where we need to be in order to limit global warming. People’s lives are at risk. Our planet and all of its creatures are at risk.
And yet, there is some good news out of the conference today. Countries have begun making pledges to the Loss and Damage Fund, which are key to climate justice globally. This funding would assist developing nations that are suffering from climate impacts already upon them, including both tangible and intangible losses such as loss of culture and livelihoods. The host country, the United Arab Emirates, led the way with a $100 million pledge to the fund, while others, including the U.S., pledged far smaller amounts (the U.S. pledged $17.5 million for Loss and Damage and is being widely criticized already).
There is an opportunity for people of faith and conscience in the U.S. to call upon their members of Congress, who hold the purse strings for the U.S. government, and tell them that we must put more funding into climate finance, especially into funds like the Green Climate Fund and the Loss and Damage Fund. It’s time for us to do our fair share to alleviate the suffering being caused by climate change and to hold our global family with compassion and justice.