By Rev. Susan Hendershot, Interfaith Power & Light
I have been on the ground at COP28 in Dubai since day one, and while I am weary and ready to go home I am also extremely proud of how we and many faith-based partners have borne witness to these negotiations this year.
The voice of the faith community cannot be undervalued at the U.N. Climate Conference. We not only speak of the moral imperative to act for climate justice, but we also demonstrate that solutions can and are being implemented in communities all over the U.S. and, indeed, the world. This year marks the first time there has been a dedicated faith pavilion at a COP, and the inspiring programming ranged from local solutions to planetary health to spiritual practices.
One session that I was pleased to moderate was on faith, climate, and nature. All of our spiritual traditions speak of our calling to care for our Sacred Earth and those who are most vulnerable, and climate change impacts both dramatically. My colleagues in the session are doing inspiring work to protect biodiversity and work for nature-based solutions, as well as gathering data on what is working and where the challenges lie so that we are able to implement best practices in faith communities all over the world.
While there was a win on the first day of the COP with the agreement on the Loss and Damage Fund that will help communities and nations suffering the worst impacts of climate change already, tensions have remained about other issues. Countries are still far apart on language around the phasing out of fossil fuels, which is a necessary part of keeping to the Paris Agreement of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
We also know that more needs to be done to direct financial contributions to the various finance mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund and the Loss and Damage Fund. In the U.S., we have been weak on making contributions and doing our fair share as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our role here at the COP is that of an “observer” organization. And that is what we do. We observe the negotiations, we pay attention to what is being said, we meet with the U.S. negotiators to urge greater ambition and attention to equity and justice, and we share that information with all of you.
The U.S. cannot make promises in the global arena that we cannot deliver on at home, and that is where your advocacy comes in. Please contact your members of Congress and tell them that acting on climate change matters to you. Tell them your personal story about why you care. Ask them to increase the budget for climate finance so we can meet our obligations to the global community.
Thank you for all you are doing to change the course of climate history.