Global climate talks begin Nov. 30 in Dubai

PC(USA) contingent hopes global leaders take action to address climate change and help vulnerable countries

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Cyclone Freddy displaced many people from their homes in southern Africa and led to flooding, loss of crops and livestock as well as damaged buildings and infrastructure, according to ACT Alliance. (Photo courtesy of ACT/NCA/DCA)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be keeping a close eye on global climate talks Nov. 30-Dec. 12 in Dubai’s Expo City on the Arabian Peninsula.

A contingent of online and in-person participants from the PC(USA) will be attending or following the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and providing regular updates through the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Eco-Justice Journey blog.

The event, also known as the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), attracts tens of thousands of political leaders, businesspeople, climate activists and others to make their voices heard on one of the greatest challenges of today. Many hope the gathering will step up efforts to protect the planet.

In recent years, climate change has drawn more and more concern as communities around the globe have experienced unsettling and often record-breaking disasters, from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and wildfires. The world also is contending with droughts, sea level rise, intense flooding and stifling heatwaves.

Christina Cosby is domestic representative for the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (Photo courtesy of OPW)

“The urgency to act is clear, and COP28 must be a ‘can-do COP,’” said Christina Cosby of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW), who’ll be attending the conference. “I am looking forward to the role the faith community plays in prioritizing the planet and people in these negotiations as we work toward sustainable solutions that limit the impact of (the) climate crisis.”

The annual event brings together the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to discuss how to collectively put the brakes on global warming. The parties include nearly 200 countries and the European Union.

A World Council of Churches debriefing during last year’s UN Climate Change Conference. (Photo by the Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo/courtesy of PHP)

As part of the Paris Agreement of 2015, countries previously committed to keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius or, more ideally, 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, experts have recently said that it’s unlikely, though not impossible, to meet that target.

A study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that the 1.5-degree threshold would be hit in about six years if greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at current rates. But that’s no reason to give up, according to one of the authors quoted by NPR.

“If we are able to limit warming to 1.6 degrees or 1.65 degrees or 1.7 degrees [Celsius], that’s a lot better than 2 degrees [Celsius],” study co-author Christopher Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds, said in the NPR article. “We still need to fight for every tenth of a degree.”

COP28 will be the conclusion of the first global stocktake, an assessment or report card of how much progress has been made toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. A preliminary report released earlier this year noted that efforts are falling short. Among the key findings were that domestic mitigation through policymaking is needed as well as scaling up renewable energy, cutting back on fossil fuels and ending deforestation, according to Forbes.

Jessica Maudlin (File photo by Rich Copley)

Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns for the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), is eager to see the United States step up its efforts.

“Global climate change is real, is human-caused and has already caused significant harm to humans, wildlife and natural ecosystems,” said Maudlin, who’ll be attending COP online and populating PHP’s blog. “The U.S. must take immediate, swift and effective action to reduce carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change, mass species extinction, hazardous sea level rise, mounting risks to human health, and increasingly erratic and dangerous weather patterns.”

She said it’s important for the PC(USA) — and for other people of faith — to follow the COP28 proceedings closely for a number of reasons.

“Showing up in these spaces is one (way) we can communicate to U.S. leaders that we must take more urgent action,” Maudlin said. “We also have a responsibility to live out our charge as Matthew 25 people, not only in our local congregations but as citizens and siblings of the world.”

Others scheduled to be part of the PC(USA) contingent include mission co-workers the Rev. Jed Koball and Alethia White and the Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, a former staff member for the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI). Maggie Collins, a Young Adult Volunteer at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, also will be participating, and PC(USA) will be sharing its passes with some delegates from the World Council of Churches from the global south/Indigenous populations.

White is eager to take part for a variety of reasons. “The global stocktake is of high interest to me as well as climate finance, particularly in which direction the U.S. will move on this issue,” she said. “My interest is so broad because I see everything as systemically interconnected. The work of our regional (European) partners on so many topics is all connected in some way to climate issues. For me, this COP will be about learning and also adding our voices to those of our partners in calling for broad and bold changes for the benefit of all. I’m looking forward to experiencing a new place and to being present in the midst of these conversations and decisions.”

The PC(USA) and others will be watching to see how much progress can be made toward finalizing a loss and damages fund to help poor countries grappling with the effects of climate change. Global leaders are set to receive a draft agreement at COP28.

“The climate crisis disproportionately affects vulnerable countries and populations, who are often the least prepared to cope with its changing effects,” said Cosby, domestic representative at the OPW. “I will participate in climate finance negotiations at COP28 as it is an important way that the faith community can engage at COP28 emphasizing that financial decisions directly reflect our morals. It is imperative that we ensure the voices of vulnerable communities are not only heard but also amplified and seriously considered when determining climate finance policies.”

Presbyterian mission co-worker the Rev. Jed Koball in the Alpaca raising farmlands of Huancavelica, Peru. (Contributed photo)

Koball said he also is interested in climate finance, but also “a ‘just transition’ from fossil fuels to renewable energies.” He added, “I’m most excited about the connections that will be made, both among faith-based groups as well as voices from civil society. I’m particularly excited to connect with and learn from Indigenous leaders who will be present.”

Presbyterians in the pews have multiple ways to follow along from home, Maudlin said. For example, “many events in the Blue Zone, such as the plenary sessions of the bodies, the high-level segment with heads of states, many press conferences and side events will be webcast live for the public on,” she said.

More ways to learn or advocate:

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