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Interfaith Leaders Join United Methodist Church for 'Climate Talks' at COP23

By Nichole Tucker
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The United Methodist Church (UMC) has joined in on 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) as a way to provide a moral grounding while multi-sector leaders from all over the world discuss climate change, its impacts, and put ideas into action. As part of an interfaith delegation, the UMC has a team of faith leaders by its side to help set the moral ground.

A Statement from the Delegation

Members of a climate leadership delegation: The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, Wespath, United Methodist Women, and Global Ministries released a joint statement in anticipation of COP23. In their proclamation, they mentioned an expectation of “bold action," from their COP23 peers, which appears to already be in the works after a mere three days in Bonn, Germany.  

During a live Facebook stream, the United Methodist Church leaders, John Hill and Rev. Jenny Phillips summarized day one of the convention. At that time, leaders at COP23 began to cover topics of global crisis like:

  • climate migration
  • environmental justice
  • poverty & climate

Loss and Damage

Many faith groups have been formulating plans for climate action, but this year’s convention is all about “loss and damage.” Impacts have been seen throughout the United States in places like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico - but these leaders understand that the entire world is battling the same issue. To discuss these worldwide impacts, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set up a platform specifically for the world’s most impacted regions to speak and strategize.

These conversations and these negotiations are really centered around the experience on impacted communities. - John Hill, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church  

Among them are nation states like Fiji and Nigeria which have experienced major impacts in recent months. Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, the United Methodist Church in Nigeria and Daniel Obergfell of the Germany Central Conference were present to speak on these impacts and convey the importance of climate action in Nigeria and on the island of Fiji.

Preventing Loss and Damage

Places like Fiji are among the poorest nations that contribute the least to causing climate change. It is widely believed that it is up to large, economically-sound nations like the United States to help smaller nations by complying with the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, including, helping to decrease the temperature of the Earth and decrease pollution which are both predicted to play a hand in negatively impacting the lives of 12.6 million people by 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Acknowledging America’s essential role in climate action, non-federal groups and individuals have committed to upholding the agreement on the country’s behalf.

Local government and civil society have doubled down and said ‘we’re still in' - Rev. Jenny Phillips, United Methodist Commitee on Relief 

Even with local and civil pledges, many of the impacts of climate change are occurrences that could have been prevented. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and other faith organizations are aiming to stop these crises before they happen. At the COP23 ‘Climate Talks,” John Hill agreed with his UMCOR colleague on this crucial obligation.

"We have to take urgent action to prevent even more catastrophic impacts.”

Read “Before Disaster Strikes,” by Rev. Jenny Phillips

COP23 will continue until November 17th with the UMC and 212 other churches and congregations present who have signed the “We’re Still In,” declaration.