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The PC(USA)’s ‘Advocacy Watch’ offers takeaways from COP27 climate conference


Podcast episode features members of the Presbyterian delegation

January 30, 2023

A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation returned from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt to encourage others in the denomination to find ways to show their concern for the environment.

“Get in touch with us, and we’ll connect you to groups and organizations” to collaborate with in your communities and churches, said Sue Rheem, a delegation member who co-hosts “Advocacy Watch,” the monthly advocacy episode of “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast.” “There are things that each one of us can do to make a change.”

Rheem, who coordinates the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, made the comment during a recent podcast, which centered on COP27, a global event also known as the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

During COP, which takes place each year, world leaders come together to discuss ways to address the global climate crisis. In addition to representatives from nearly 200 countries, the event attracts nonprofits, Indigenous groups and faith-based organizations and others to observe and take part in side events and other activities, such as protests and vigils. This year, there was an eight-member delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Some of them appeared on the podcast.

“There is a rich history there of the Presbyterian church being present and having good connections,” said COP attendee Jessica Maudlin, the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns. “We show up both as the PC(USA) but also as part of the World Council of Churches delegation and also the ACT Alliance — the activities that they plan — so we are well-connected to other faith organizations. That really helps us amplify the voices of people of faith.”

One of the biggest pieces of news from the COP was a decision to establish a fund to provide payouts to developing countries that suffer what’s referred to as “loss and damage” from climate-related disasters, such as floods and droughts.

“It’s the first time in 30 years that loss and damage even made it onto the agenda to be talked about, let alone have an agreement around that,” Maudlin said during the podcast. Also, “they’ve established this transitional committee that will help supposedly make the decisions” about how the fund will be implemented.

Although COP attracts worldwide publicity to the subject of climate change, it does have its flaws, and some activists have begun to look at it in a critical away. Some are wondering, “do we need to bring 40,000 people to this conference to get things done?” said Advocacy Watch guest Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Issues in the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness. “I think that there’s going to be a lot of evaluation about the effectiveness of COP and what it means to participate in it.”

The podcast guests lamented the large presence of fossil fuel companies and efforts by corporate giants to promote themselves. Gordon, a first-time COP attendee, also spoke about a hunger strike by a man concerned about human rights conditions in Egypt.

“It gave a dark energy to the conference … knowing that someone might die in prison for human rights while we were at a conference on the environment, and very little attention was being paid to it,” she said.

Members of the PC(USA) delegation also noted some logistical difficulties at COP and a feeling that discussions weren’t always as productive as they needed to be, but there also were some bright spots (See Christian Brooks of the Office of Public Witness discuss her experience here.).

Maudlin recalled visiting a climate justice action hub that she found to be very hospitable. “Also, there were some side events inside of the venue that were geared more towards solutions and actions, and I got to be part of a really beautiful side event on storytelling and how everyone has a climate story to tell,” she said.

Maudlin’s day-to-day job includes interacting with PHP’s Earth Care Congregations. She plans to encourage them to begin working early to let their concerns about climate change be known so that “representatives at COP28 can, hopefully, make some more ambitious decisions.”

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Hunger Program are all part of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, another CPJ ministry, also sent representatives to COP.

Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: COP27 climate conference

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Hery Ramambasoa, Mission Coordinator II, Asia & Pacific Office, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Ed Ramsey, Network Support Engineer, Information Technology, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

God of the tilling, God of the planting, God of the watering and God of the harvest, prepare your workers for all that you call us to be and for all you call us to do, so that the harvest might be great and your name be greatly praised; for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest. Amen.