Episcopalians at COP27

Episcopalians at COP27

by Dr. Donnal Walter on December 20, 2022

Although it was a big deal, I almost missed it. You might have, too. It was noteworthy both for what it accomplished and what it didn’t, but both seemed to get lost on the heels of the midterms. You had to be paying close attention to learn much about it. I am referring, of course, to COP27, November 6-18.

“COP” stands for “Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. COP27 was the 27th annual meeting since Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (They skipped a few years early on and in 2019.) Especially notable was COP21 in 2015, where the historic Paris Climate Agreement was reached. Beginning that year, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has sent a delegation every year.

This year, Bishop Curry named 18 delegates to COP27, some participating online and some who traveled in person to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It was through their reports that I learned about this important meeting. We tend to think of the climate crisis as a secular issue, but these delegates helped me see that faith-based communities play an essential role world-wide in addressing Earth care. We also think of dealing with the crisis as being the prevue of governments, but non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the immune system of the earth helping to protect the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

  1. The principal success of COP27, on the last night of the extended conference, was forging an agreement to set up the Loss and Damage Fund to care for the displaced and injured communities. While the historic decision was welcomed, this is but the first step, and success will depend on how quickly this fund gets off the ground. Representatives from 24 countries will work together over the next year to decide what form the fund should take, which countries should contribute, and where and how the money should be distributed.
  2. The most disappointing failure was inability to address the need for a more aggressive target for temperature rise. The only way to stay under that limit would be for industrialized nations to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions—cutting them by about half in the next eight years and to zero by 2050—but nothing that happened at this year’s two-week conference has increased the likelihood that will happen.
  3. My challenge is to learn more about how I and we (at St. Margaret’s) can do more to support biodiversity, both in our watersheds and globally. Who would like to explore this with me?

The delegates were great about reporting back during the conference, but especially helpful to me was the COP27 Advocacy Closing Event on November 30. The recording of this event is available online. Many of us won’t have time to watch it all, but if you would like to pick and choose, here are the timestamps for each of the speakers. In any case, please be inspired by the group of the individuals who represented our Church in Egypt in November (and this is only a sampling).

  • 00:00:00Melanie Mullen: Preface and opening prayer
  • 00:03:37Stephanie Spellers: Welcome
  • 00:06:03Marc Andrus: Why this was the most historic COP since Paris
  • 00:15:17Melanie Mullen: Ecumenical and Anglican advocacy
  • 00:21:40Coco de Marneffe: Women and Gender Workstream, Africa Day
  • 00:26:26Ayesha Mutope-Johnson: Gender and educating girls (and youth)
  • 00:34:35Emma Hennen: Biodiversity Workstream, Amazon Rain Forest
  • 00:39:52John Kydd: Loss and Damage Workstream, Indigenous Cultures
  • 00:45:23Kelsey Larson: Mitigation Pathway, Economic decisions
  • 00:51:45Kevin Taylor, WWF: “We are still in!” and “America’s all in!” movements
  • 00:59:30Lynnaia Main: Reflections on COP27
  • 01: 09:40Rebecca Blachly: Episcopal Office of Government Relations
  • 01:15:24Anna Shine: Closing Prayer