Dedication, Sustainability and Complicity

Reflections on a first day at COP 21

world flag columns outside UNFCCC


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “Conference of the Parties 21” (COP 21)’s official delegation areas, called the “blue area,” was my primary territory my first day in Paris. Accredited observers, delegates, and media contacts fill the hallways, display booths, meeting rooms, and side events. Before the ministers arrive tomorrow, delegates and lobbyists hurry to cover vital issues and come to some agreements. 


Important conversations on funding are the primary debates here these few days. Who finances what, and how much? Just like talking with my kids about their allowance, and just like stewardship committees in churches work hard to figure out a church budget and pledging, financing what we want to achieve (and how to fund it) as a global community is a hard and complicated conversation. Adaptation, loss and damage, and legal language surrounding responsibility and accountability of nations are all important pieces. People are busy scrutinizing text and advocating changes and figuring out the impact on each country, and on the world as a whole.


It is inspiring to see the passion and commitment of all those who are working tirelessly to get to what is understood to be a critical global agreement, long overdue. People speak in all languages, are in all styles of dress, and converse with urgency and dedication.


While delegates try to figure out the long-term impact of these days’ conversations and commitments, the conference site itself tries to demonstrate commitment to sustainability. Like most sustainable conferencing (which Presbyterian gatherings hopefully increasingly will emulate), there are well-placed recycling bins, reusable cups (for cold drinks as well as for delicious espresso!), and conference non-BPA water bottles given to participants—with educational water stations placed throughout the facility. The conference bag is made from former sweaters (“ceci etait un pull”) and conference notebooks are 100% recycled paper.


sustainable conference items


Art work around the halls include large colorful glass representations of multiple species (a Noah’s Ark art exhibition), facts about climate, inspirational nature scenes and challenging facts of climate impacts.


Noah's Ark art work


The site is generating energy, using green energy, caring for the waste stream, prioritizing public transportation, and has a goal of “a limited and fully-offset carbon footprint and above all, to secure ISO 20121 certification (international sustainable development standard), which would be a first for an event of this magnitude.”


At the same time, it’s noteworthy how many people are on multiple electronic devices, all day long. It is not lost on me that I sit and blog on my computer, while I charge my phones, using energy, having flown across an ocean, to learn about climate change. There are screens everywhere. Lights, energy, electronics, all the component parts made up from natural resources, participate in environmental justice.


bloggers area


As a person of faith, I find it crucial to note that we are always complicit, and comforting that we do already know this—our culpability as humans is inevitable, and it’s why we confess again and again before our Creator. As we live, breathe, eat—as we communicate, gather, and network—we use energy and other natural resources, and move about the world in a way we know impacts other people, and God. So what choices then will we make?


As these days move forward, we covet your prayers, your daily action, and your writing to legislators back home expressing your voice on renewable energy, the Clean Power Plan in your state, our government’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund, support for the President’s Power Plus Plan, and more. And on Sunday, as you’re able at your church—ring bells in solidarity with climate justice, as churches across Paris ring bells in support of the COP21!


For more information on various events and decisions, see PC(USA) partner

ACT Alliance’s daily COP21 news.


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