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Faith-based groups strive to save Mother Earth at COP27

Will the nations listen and address the longer-term impacts of climate change?
Climate activists demonstrate at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name, during the COP27 climate conference, on Nov. 14

Climate activists demonstrate at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name, during the COP27 climate conference, on Nov. 14. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Published: November 14, 2022 11:43 AM GMT
Updated: November 14, 2022 11:45 AM GMT

When the 2022 Climate Change Conference (COP27) concludes this week in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, thousands of civil society groups, including faith-based organizations (FBOs), would have done their best for the global poor without glitter and fanfare.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has recognized that participation and access of non-government organizations (NGOs) allow vital experience, expertise, information, and perspective from civil society to be brought into the negotiations to generate new insights and approaches.

Some 6,300 NGOs have observer status to attend the Climate Conference and among them are many FBOs such as religious congregations like Medical Mission Sisters (MMS).

The FBOs were active from the start of the UNFCCC and advocated for many demands to keep mother earth alive.

In 2009, they were instrumental in getting governments around the world to make a commitment to allocate US$100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries address the impacts of climate change.

In 2010 Cancun-Mexico, the pledge of rich countries with US$100 billion for developing countries was reconfirmed but they could reach US$ 83 billion only by 2020. In 2015 Paris COP 21 too, the FBOs did their best using Laudato si messages to reach the Paris Agreement.

Another issue FBOs advocated for years was loss and damage. For the first time since the adoption of the UN climate convention, the contentious issue of loss and damage made it onto the agenda after a tumultuous 48 hours of informal consultations led by the Egyptian COP Presidency.

The ongoing COP27 (Nov. 6-18) raises expectations of an agreement for funding to promote resilience and address the longer-term impacts of climate change.

Dominican Sister Dusty Farnan from Michigan will represent MMS and Dominican sisters at this year’s conference.

As not all organizations have observer status at UNFCCC, Sister Dusty registered her name through the MMS, who attained it in 2011.

The MMS representative this year chose to attend virtually.

Sister Dusty also prepared a prayer guide shared among the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCOR), a forum of Catholic religious NGOs having special consultative status at the United Nations.

The main goal of JCOR is to campaign in New York and educate the Catholic Religious around the world to do advocacy with their governments on various justice-related issues including justice for Mother Earth.

The FBOs, especially Catholic religious feel the pulse as they serve the people around the world who are suffering from climate change. The FBOs ministry at the United Nations hence is also the ministry for hundreds of congregations to reach out with advocacy to the policymakers in New York and Geneva.

St. Francis Assisi told, “preach the good news and if needed use words.” Advocacy is a ministry using the right words to the right people for those who have no voice, or whose cries do not reach those who control their lives through government policies.

The United Nations Environment Program recognized the work of FBOs and started the group called “Faith for Earth.” The Faith for Earth initiative from UN Environment is uniting religions around the world to focus on environmental issues.

Their declared mission is “to encourage, empower and engage with faith-based organizations as partners, at all levels, toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.”

Franciscan Sister Sheila Kinsey, a leader of the international forum of religious, wanted the policymakers to remember the vulnerable people. "We are one family, and we have one common home,” says the nun who is the executive co-secretary for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission of the Union of Superior Generals (USG) and International Union of Superior Generals (UISG).

Along with Sister Dusty, her community of Dominican Sisters of San Rafael in California has urged all to join Catholic religious delegates at COP27 and sisters and brothers around the world in an online prayer service for a fruitful dialogue in Egypt and inspired responses toward earth justice in every nation.

Pope Francis said the COP 27 conference on climate change represents the next opportunity for all to join in promoting the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.

“The effort to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature to 1.5C is quite demanding. It calls for responsible cooperation between all nations in presenting climate plans or more ambitious nationally determined contributions to reduce to zero as quickly as possible, net greenhouse gas emissions”

Will the Nations listen and keep our mother Earth alive?

*Celine Paramundayil is an Indian member of Medical Mission Sisters, who represented the global Medical Mission Sisters at the United Nations for 10 years. She has been a trained Laudato Si' animator since 2017 and organized programs both in the United States and India. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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