Monthly Archives: December 2015

What does Paris tell us?

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As I reflect on my last two weeks at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris two things stand out to me.

First, this is an exciting time to be involved in climate change ministry! Although far from perfect, The Paris Agreement stands as the most important and ambitious climate agreement of the past two decades with several notable achievements:

  • Included in the agreement are the individualized greenhouse gas reduction goals of more than 190 nations—the first time that every country in the world has participated in a reduction plan.
  • The agreement establishes of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise, with a target goal of 1.5 degrees.   While current national commitments don’t quite meet these targets (we’re currently headed toward 2.7 – 3.4 degrees), the identification of an ambitious goal is a clear signal that we need bold and swift action.
  • The middle of the 21st century (within my own expected lifetime) is named as the time frame for achieving global carbon neutrality.
  • Countries will revisit their commitments every five years with the intention of progressing toward increasingly ambitious goals.
  • The agreement establishes a financing mechanism for compensating those countries most severely impacted by climate change. With this plan the wealthiest countries (who have contributed the most to climate change) help finance adaptation and compensate for damage caused to the least developed nations that are most impacted.

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Equally exciting as the actual Paris Agreement is the fact that the global church is beginning to respond. Dozens of evangelical leaders from at least ten countries gathered in Paris to demonstrate Christian support for climate action. Through prayer, worship, testimony, writing, speaking, and observing we were able to bring a strong Christian witness to the COP. What became clear from this gathering is that there is strong global support for climate action among the global Christian church. Indeed, our global brothers and sisters in Christ are looking to the American church to start providing clear leadership on climate action.

The second key takeaway for me was that we have a lot of work still to do. While things are changing with American opinions on climate change, we’re a long way from strong public support or bold political action. In other words, while we’re currently riding a wave of post-Paris excitement the urgency to act has never been greater. As God’s creation continues to groan under the burden of a fossil fuel-dominated infrastructure, our global brothers and sisters continue to be impacted by rising seas, devastating floods, crop losses, desertification, and other climate impacts.

What Paris tells us is that we need a new paradigm—a paradigm of prophetic action, hopeful solutions, and Christ-centered unity. In order to truly mobilize the world to action we need to think seriously about how to incorporate Christian virtues such as compassion, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, simplicity, and faithfulness.

Being in Paris for the COP21 felt very much like attending a significant historical event—the kind you tell your grandchildren about many years later. Whether Paris becomes a tipping point in the world’s fight against climate change or merely another stop on a long journey remains to be seen. But I am hopeful. The climate may be changing, but humanity is changing with it and we can solve this thing.

More importantly, the global church is beginning to respond and to demonstrate that climate action is an issue of faithful Christian living and witness. For me personally, loving God and loving my neighbors means acting today to reduce my contribution to global climate change.

So I will continue to pray. And I will continue to act. Will you join me?

 

 

 

 

Paris Agreement on Climate Change: What did we get and where do we go next?

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Guest blog post from Paul Cook, Advocacy Director of Tearfund, a Christian development organization based in the UK.

On Saturday, December 12, 2015 for the first time in history all the nations of the world signed up to play their part in the Paris Agreement–a  global deal to tackle climate change. But is it a good deal or a bad deal? In particular is it a good deal for the millions of people living in poor communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America who are the most vulnerable to climate change and have done the least to cause it?

What did we get?

Nations signed up to hold “the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.”  This doesn’t sound like much, but it is the critical level that the science indicates we need to stay below to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Indeed there has been growing recognition that the science points towards limiting warming not to 2 but to 1.5 degrees. The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of over 40 of the poorest countries who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, led the momentum in the Paris talks to see the limit strengthened from 2 to 1.5 degrees, a major victory.

In order to stay below 1.5 degrees, the Paris Agreement says we need to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.”  Basically humans must stop emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than the planet can absorb naturally through rainforests, oceans, soils, etc. This is not the clear commitment to shift to 100% clean energy by (not after) 2050, as Tearfund [or Climate Caretakers] would have liked. Nevertheless, it means that for the first time ever the governments of the world have accepted that the safe level of emissions is effectively zero, and that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end to be replaced with 100% clean energy.

The Paris Agreement locks in and confirms the planned cuts to their emissions over the next few years that each country put on the table before they even arrived: their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). Together these will reduce global average temperature rise from a catastrophic 4 degrees to 2.7 degrees. This obviously isn’t enough given the level we need to stay below is 1.5 degrees, but it is finally a good start.

In order to close this remaining gap the Paris Agreement institutes a system whereby every five years the emissions cuts nations have planned can be reviewed and ratcheted up until we finally do get down to a level which will keep the world below 1.5 degrees. The first window of opportunity for this is in 2018. None of this will be easy, and each time will no doubt be a tough fight with millions of Christians and others around the world mobilising to put pressure on their governments to be more ambitious in their planned cuts. However, there is also strong grounds to hope that the clear signal the Paris Agreement has given and the implementation of the INDCs once begun will finally be a tipping point driving huge investment out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, accelerating the progress and enabling nations to move much faster than they currently think.

Developed countries reaffirmed their commitment to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance from 2020 to help poor countries transition their economies to clean energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This has now been extended up to 2025, from which point the international community will set a new goal for finance with $100 billion as a minimum ‘floor.’ However, developed nations are currently still a very long way from doing this in reality and pressure will have to be kept up to ensure they truly deliver up to 2025 and continue to do their share beyond.

Where do we go next?

So the Paris Agreement is not perfect. It doesn’t give us everything we need to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and provide all the financial support the poorest communities around the world need. However, it does give us a strong start we can build on and scale up in the years ahead until we do get there.

The challenge now for all the people of the world is to bring the Paris Agreement home and transform commitments on paper into actions in reality in every nation, and to scale up that ambition in the years ahead.

The Paris Agreement was only possible in large part because so many groups were mobilised to create political pressure for a good result. Businesses, world leaders, scientists, mayors and local authorities, ordinary people and not least faith groups all took action and spoke out.

Ordinary Christians and churches around the world have been central to this. They have prayed and spoken up for action on climate change. They formed a large contingent in over 2,000 marches that took place around the world involving millions of people at the start of the Paris talks. This included over 50,000 people in London in the UK’s largest ever climate march. Tearfund will be honored to continue to work with ordinary Christians, churches and in coalition with organisations and individuals of all faiths and none to continue to bring pressure on governments to implement, rapidly build on and improve the Paris Agreement in the years ahead.

Reposted with permission from Tearfund and Paul Cook.  Original post here.

The power of forgiveness

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Over the course of the past week I’ve shed tears more often than during most of my adult life. I have been moved with sorrow by the stories shared by my brothers and sisters about how climate change is impacting their lives. I have been overwhelmed by the words and actions of my students at Houghton College who have risen up to bring attention to climate issues. And I have been brought to tears by the reflection of my own contribution to the suffering of others through my lifestyle.

Everyday at noon a group of Christians hosts a “pop-up” worship event here in the COP21 conference area. Today’s reflection passage focused on the theme of forgiveness and imagined a conversation between the author and his/her unborn grandchildren. The grandchildren ask “why?” Why didn’t you act sooner? Why did you treat God’s creation with contempt? Why did you put short-term profit above long-term wellbeing?

As we were sharing our reflections I learned about a brother from the Solomon Islands who was worshipping with us. The Solomon Islands are low-lying islands in the South Pacific that are becoming inundated by sea level rise. They can no longer dig or drink their own water. Their houses are being flooded.

With great reluctance I realized a sobering truth—I caused this. My lifestyle of consumption and my addiction to fossil fuels are the reason his island is being flooded. I could blame the fossil fuel companies or the politicians. I could offer excuses of ignorance or lack of alternative options. I could even blame the proverbial “us.” All of these would be accurate, but the reality is that I am the reason for his suffering. My excess is the reason he suffers. If I am to believe that I am responsible for my own actions and that Christ-like living begins with my personal decisions, then I have to own up to the fact that my lifestyle harms his homeland.

I may not be able to ask forgiveness of my grandchildren, but I could ask it of this man. So I did. I approached him with tears in my eyes and asked if he would forgive me for my ignorance, for being late to act, and for not doing enough. Nigel is his name, and he hugged me long and hard. “All I ask is that you just keep acting to make change,” he said.

His hug was reviving for my spirit and spoke to me of love and reconciliation. Some environmentalists use guilt as a tool to inspire change. But Christ teaches us about forgiveness, about compassion, about unity, and about reconciliation. Should we feel guilty about our lifestyles? Maybe, if it inspires us to do better. But more importantly our faith should move us toward wholeness, integrity, and Christ-likeness.

Do we all need to ask Nigel for forgiveness? I think Nigel would agree that’s a bit impractical. But I do know this; in asking my Solomon brother for forgiveness I found peace. I also found inspiration to push forward in advocating for bold action on climate change. I pray that I may prove faithful to his word of forgiveness in that I will continue to keep acting to make this a better world.

Thank you, Nigel.

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To speak out for the voiceless

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Yesterday at Houghton College, an evangelical liberal arts college in western New York, students participated in a “Day of Silence” for climate change and for COP21. Their silence is designed to bring attention to the millions of people who are being impacted by climate change but have no voice in global affairs–most of whom have done nothing to contribute to the problem.

Many of these people face extreme droughts, devastating floods, decreasing food security, and rising seas.  Subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face changing rainfall patterns, decreasing precipitation, and crop losses.  Small island nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati will most likely lose their homelands entirely within their lifetimes.  These are the stories of people who have no voice in the global economy.

Proverbs 31:8-10 tells us to, “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.”

Houghton students have chosen to speak out; yesterday through their silence and today through their prayers.

Yesterday in Paris at the COP21 climate conference I visited the Climate Action Zone, an energetic and exciting space designed to foster creative and artistic communication on climate change. It was a fun atmosphere and inspiring in many ways.   However, what really caught my attention was a photo essay picturing Amazon women standing up against the oil companies attempting to exploit their communities, their cultures, and their livelihoods. Who could possibly be more voiceless than politically disempowered women in the Amazon who are being exploited by multinational oil companies? And what does it look like to speak up for these women?

I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that a God-honoring response to climate change means standing for these for women and speaking for them when I have a voice. To hear from a few of their voices continue reading below.  This photo essay “Amazonian women in resistance, Ecuador” was done by Felipe Jacome, with support from Accion Ecologista.

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“I am Hasmil Willamil. I am 11 years old. I want to live free in the Amazon forest. I want to play with the animals and I want my community to live in peace.”

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“My name is Ena Santi. I am from the Parroquia Sarayacu and a woman who has fought against oil exploitation. In 2002 an oil company came to our Sarayacu territory to destroy the Amazon rainforest. The women of the community worked shoulder to shoulder with children, youth, adults and the elders to resist. Even our school closed in the fight against oil. We split up into groups and tasks to sustain the fight. Women mostly made chicha and food for the men who went into the jungle. Sarayacu women dream of defending our territory, our forests, our rivers and to have air free from pollution. We also fight against violence against women in our community. Let’s get up. It is time to open our eyes. It is time to join together in one heart, strong and pure. It’s time to get up again.”

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“My name is Linda. Women of the Amazon fight for our land so that our children can live without pollution. We also fight so that the animals can live freely. We fight because we believe in the future. In my experience, oil not only causes damage to the environment, but to the family. Many men who begin to work for the oil companies begin to drink a lot and become violent with his family. Men who work for oil companies work in difficult conditions and they do not pay fair wages.”

So let us speak up for Hasmil, Ena, and Linda!  Let us speak up for the voiceless.

Prayer for final days of COP21

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With a problem as large and complicated as climate change, it’s hard to know how to pray for a good and just solution.  As negotiators from 195 countries prepare to enter the final days of the COP21 conference in Paris, here are five specific things you can pray for to ensure a God-honoring conclusion to this conference.

  1. New declared target of only a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise. Six years ago the world identified a maximum 2 degree Celsius temperature rise as the target for avoiding the worst climate impacts. Since then we’ve seen less than one degree increase and already we’ve seen significant impacts. A coalition of the world’s most vulnerable countries has been calling for a target of 1.5.
  2. Ambitious date for getting off fossil fuels.       Most experts suggest a target around mid-century for transitioning our fossil fuel use entirely to renewable energy. As would be expected, some are trying to push this target farther back. A date of 2050 would be ambitious, but fair.
  3. Inclusion of indigenous rights in the final document. Indigenous people are typically the most excluded from international negotiations.       They also have the least voice in these processes and are the most marginalized.
  4. Mechanism for post-COP accountability in terms of enforcement and continual improvement.
  5. Full funding with follow-through for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, such as the Green Climate Fund.
  6. Continued momentum after COP21 to move people toward prayer and more action on climate change. This is a problem that requires all of us working together.

Love, not fear

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Praying over Bishop Tendero 

So often in climate communication we hear messages of fear. Fear of conspiracy; fear of catastrophe; or fear of government seem to dominate the frames through which our media portray this issue. This fear mongering from both sides leads to a sense of futility and prevents effective action on climate change.

That’s why the events surrounding COP21 here in Paris have been so encouraging. The one thing absent here is stories of fear. To be sure, I hear stories of loss and injustice, narratives of devastation, and seemingly insurmountable problems. However, I do not hear fear.

Nothing exemplifies this better than our global gathering of evangelicals on Saturday, December 5 at St. Michael’s Church in downtown Paris. More than 120 people came together for “A Christian Response to Climate Change,” which featured speakers from The Philippines, Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.—all of them born-again, Bible-believing Christians. Notable academics, church and NGO leaders took turns discussing topics ranging from climate science to justice to communication.

The overwhelming narrative of the day was that we, as Christians, have a moral responsibility to care for God’s creation and to love our neighbor by responding to climate change. I was struck by the unity of messages between the speakers. Despite their diverse academic and geographic backgrounds, the messages were the same—the time to respond is now. There was no dissension within the group; no debate or tension; no outside agenda; only a beautiful and unified spirit of love and compassion. The energy and excitement in the group was compelling, and you couldn’t miss the feeling that both the global and the Christian community were at the edge of a significant moment in history.

One of the speakers was Bishop Efraim Tendero of The Philippines. Bishop Tendero provided a compelling presence, not only because The Philippines stands on the front line of climate impacts, but also because he serves as the General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance. In other words, he is the nominal leader of the 600 million evangelicals in the world.

With his humble spirit, Bishop Tendero challenged us to see the injustices of climate change and to work effectively to create solutions. For example, The Philippines emits just 0.28% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the U.S. and China, which combined account for 42%). Nevertheless, The Philippines has been identified as the #1 most vulnerable country in the world to climate impacts. Nothing exemplifies this better than the destructive impact of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated his country just two years ago. This disparity highlights how climate change is a justice issue within the Church.

The narrative on climate change within the global church runs quite different from how we see it portrayed in the media in the U.S. Indeed, the St. Michael’s conference was filled with solidly biblical, theologically strong arguments for a Christian response to climate change. Love, compassion, and justice dominated the atmosphere, rather than fear or compulsion, providing hope that “yes,” we can solve this problem.

Let us pray for more love, more hope, and more solutions, as we pray for a united Christian response to this challenge.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.”

 

 

Holy Prayers from Notre Dame de Paris

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Some might think I’m in Paris for the food, or the wine, or the sights. While all these are pretty awesome, I’m really here at COP21 to put my faith into action. Climate change is one of the most pervasive problems of our time and is causing enormous harm to God’s creation and to our brothers and sisters around the world. As a follower of Christ seeking to love God and love my neighbors, I must respond.

And so I am here. I am here to testify that Christians care about climate change. I am here to show the love of God to a world that is hurting. I am here to be a faithful steward of God’s creation.   I am here to demonstrate compassion for my global neighbors.

With me are tens of thousands of others from every nation on earth.  Their stories are compelling and speak to a world in need of Christ and a world in need of a Christian response.

Yesterday, our group attended a prayer service in the ancient cathedral of Notre Dame. Simply being in this magnificent church is awe-inspiring with its soaring ceiling, beautiful buttresses and Gothic brilliance. Last night’s experience, however, was even more powerful as we joined in prayer over climate change with hundreds of people from all over the world. Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox leaders led us in prayer for God’s creation and for the climate.

It is impossible to describe what it was like to worship and pray with such a multicultural, multilingual, and multi-denominational gathering inside one of the most beautiful churches in the world. As our prayers and songs rose to the heights of the beautiful stone arches I couldn’t’ help but think about the cultural power that the church has to change the world. For centuries this church was the most important building in the most important city in the world, and now we were joined in unity as a global movement of Christians to respond to one of the greatest challenges humankind has ever face.

What will our approach to climate change look like when the Church decides to stand for justice?  Suffice it to say that my soul was moved by this glimpse of community, love, and unified prayer.

Without doubt the most powerful moment of the evening occurred as we all prayed the Lord’s Prayer in unison and in our own languages. As I prayed “your kingdom come,” I thought, “IT’S HERE!” This is what God’s kingdom looks like. People from many tribes, nations, tongues, and races praying together for God to be glorified through our lives and actions. It is through these prayers that change will happen. Our hope is not in escape or politics or technology or ideology; our hope is in God. And scripture tells us again and again that God cares for the suffering and for his creation.

I don’t know how many languages were represented that evening, but I do know that God’s kingdom came in that historic cathedral. And that his Spirit is at work in believers to move us toward faithful environmental stewardship.

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Share the Knowledge

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What is COP21 and why should I care?

COP21 (Conference of Parties 21st meeting) is the global gathering of world leaders in Paris, that will set the stage for a global response to Climate Change. Climate change poses a threat to all of humanity, but those who are in extreme poverty suffer the most from its impacts.

As Christians we are called to serve the poor, to be good stewards of what God gives us, and to love others as ourselves. Climate Change presents a unique opportunity to show the world God’s love.

To learn more about why COP21 is important click here, or to learn more about the facts of Climate Change click here.

What can we do?

  • Become a Climate Caretaker to pray and act on Climate Change.
  • Share what you know on social media. We have created a few example tweets below. You just have to click the example and it will automatically open in your twitter account.
  • Share an image on social media. Feel free to download and use any of the images below as well over social media.

Tweet About it:

Let’s be a witness to the world that #Christians DO care about #ClimateChange www.climatecaretakers.org

“Together our voices make a difference in prayer.” #COP21 http://bit.ly/1K4denw

What is #Cop21 and why does it matter? www.climatecaretakers.org #ClimateCaretakers

I’m praying for #COP21 & a unified decision to take action on #ClimateChange. Will you join me? http://bit.ly/1K4denw

I support bold action on #ClimateChange at #COP21. Join me as a #climatecaretaker! www.climatecaretakers.org

Share an Image:

 

Bishop Tendero-Insight into the Impacts of Climate Change

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Bishop Tendero was born in the Philippines and is the current Secretary General of World Evangelical Alliance, which is a ‘global ministry working with local churches around the world to join in common concern to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus in their communities’.

Our team in Paris, which includes our Director at Micah Challenge, Jason Fileta, and Christian artists William MatthewsJohn Mark McMillanSarah K McMillan, and Steven Roach (from Songs of Water) got the chance to sit down and interview Bishop Tendero on why he believes Climate Change is an issue, and why Evangelicals should get involved.

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“Paris is such a memorable place. But I will remember today mostly because of a man named Bishop Tendero. Tonight he told us of how six thousand people in his country died in a single Typhoon. He believes the strength of this storm and those they face annually are due to rising temperatures in the ocean. I know that some Americans feel like climate change is a hoax and tonight I asked the Bishop why he thought people feel this way. He graciously responded “they don’t consider it because it’s not upon their doorstep, but it’s on ours“. Honestly I’m not an environmentalist but with so much at stake isn’t it worth considering that the way we live our lives might affect other people? Just think about it and don’t be a jerk in the comments. ‪#‎cop21‬ ‪#‎fortheloveof‬” -John Mark McMillan

A few photos from the interview:

Yeb Sano-Learning from the Unofficial Face of UN Climate Talks

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Yeb Sano, a Filipino climate change activist, diplomat, and environmentalist, shocked the UN last year as he wept over Typhoon Haiyan which had ruined the lives of many. His strong reaction, dedicated faith to Christ, and strong call for action has made him an unofficial face for UN Climate Talks.

Our team in Paris, which includes our Director at Micah Challenge, Jason Fileta, and Christian artists William MatthewsJohn Mark McMillanSarah K McMillan, and Steven Roach (from Songs of Water) got the chance to sit down and interview Yeb Sano in hopes to learn the true impact of Climate Change.

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“We spent the morning with Yeb Sano, a devout Christian and former UN ambassador from the Philippines. He and 12 others walked as pilgrims from Rome to Paris to bring awareness to the climate issue that he believes is devastating his people. This incredibly gracious man told me, “There is a problem with the atmosphere, but the real problem is with the heart.#COP21 #ForTheLoveOf” -John Mark McMillan

Here are a few photos from the time together: