For various reasons, I had decided to return today to Leuven – by train, a 12 hour affair, which gave me ample time to reflect on the past days in Copenhagen and at the Bella Center. I started by feeling frustrated for having to leave at an interesting moment of the conference: not much has been reached up to now and I am left wondering whether the goals of the talks – reaching two track agreements (Kyoto and UNFCCC) on issues as mitigation, the financing of adaptation and the transfer of technology – are not themselves far below what could be expected in an urgent situation as we face today. I can only hope that in the coming two days, the presence of so many heads of state will allow for some real worldwide leadership and for some strong decisions. I felt also frustrated by the fact that from tomorrow on even more NGO-members, representing the public forum, will be excluded from the Bella Center. I can sympathize with the reasons for this, but it is really bad show, as the presence of critical and stimulating is a creative part of UN meetings as COP.
I did not only feel frustration; gratefully, I also overviewed some of the lessons learnt at COP15. I offer them in no particular order for further reflection and reactions …
(1) – We are facing an urgent and very serious worldwide challenge: the scientists keep reminding us of that and the expression “we are committed to …” that they like to use, indicates that we have to factor in for the near future some very threatening consequences of global climate change, consequences both for human beings and for the planet as a whole. In fifty years from now, the planet will look differently and human beings will live differently.
(2) – Our best available science (BAS) keeps evolving and deepening its insight in the crisis: IPCC V will involve more complexity (e.g. the role of the oceans) and will take more account of the social implications of what is happening. I think that heads of state and world leaders will also increasingly pay attention to the security aspects of global climate change. I feel, for myself, that science has to move to a higher “level,” i.e. finding a way to see the whole and not only analyze its parts as individual bits and pieces: the issue is not only to acquire more precisions on various aspects of the crisis, it is also to find a way to look at the crisis as a whole.
(3) – There is still a lot of skepticism around and – as illustrated by the hacking of the personal e-mails of scientists – the media seem to focus on these issues. In my personal opinion, this is irresponsible, although it takes account of the fact that skeptics exercise a real political influence that is felt at COP15.
(4) – The fact that the Bella Center is overrun by NGOs is a good and comforting sign: many people and organizations – particularly grassroot organizations – have grasped the importance and the significance of the global climate change crisis. And these people are active, they do not give in to despair, they challenge their politicians and they propose alternative life styles and alternative politics. The voice of these people is crucial and, therefore, it is really regrettable that decisions are being taken to limit their access to the Bella Center.
(5) – At a political level, the most important challenge seems to me to be to move out of the framework defined by “I represent my own country or nation”. Where are the politicians who represent worldwide humanity? Where are the politicians who voice the concerns of nature, of disappearing species of plants and animals, of the forests, of the oceans, etc.? Nation-voices are not helpful if they are not embedded in the deep concern for human beings worldwide and for the planet as a whole.
(6) – The worldwide environmental crisis is a social crisis, a crisis of human life on the planet earth, and of justice. The crisis is about people who suffer and give voice to what is happening. It is about the contrast between rich and poor, between those who are responsible for the human impact on climate change and those who most suffer its consequences. Over and over again, at the Bella Center, the poor and suffering people are given a voice, and attention is paid to issues of young people, of migrants, of gender and of indigenous people. Justice is not about the poor and excluded people being better human beings for their poverty and exclusion; it is about the willingness to let their experiences shed light on what is happening, because in them the struggle for life and hope is especially strong and revealing. They remind us that all of us have a responsibility for the dignity and well being of all, particularly of the most forgotten. Their voices may also help all of us to listen to the voices of nature and of the planet, as is illustrated by the strong advocacy for forests and biodiversity from the side of indigenous people. Theologians would point out that here we see the option for the poor at work. This is a crisis about human dignity and about creational dignity.
(7) – Because issues of justice are at stake, COP15 is also about reconciliation WITH reparations – Climate Justice is an important idea and it should inform the discussions about financing mitigation and adaptation. How are we going to find an new equilibrium of equity and justice between developed, emerging and developing countries and people? I feel it as a desolation that at COP15, negotiators seem to think only in strict economical terms and to understand the goal of development as the style of life of the rich countries. Is there no need for a deeper reflection on words as growth and development? The “vision text” seems very crucial from this perspective.
(8) – There remains an important issue of how the place of human beings on this planet has to be understood. Obviously, the climate change crisis is about human beings: they are to a large extent responsible for it, they suffer from the crisis, and the fate of human beings is a core concern of us and of COP15. But, there is more at stake: the crisis is also about the planet and about the relationships between human beings and the planet. Evolution theory may help us out here, to show both human embeddedness in nature, as well as the importance of human beings in nature that has given itself new possibilities and perspectives in human beings.
(9) – There is an important role for religions, although they were but little present at COP15, i.e. in the Bella Center and amidst the negotiations. There have been, of course, some remarkable religious events outside of the Bella Center, and I think especially of Rowan Williams’ sermon in Copenhagen’s cathedral. Religions touch the capacity to face truth and reality (particularly when it has become difficult to face these, as is the case with global climate change), they are spaces for visions and hope, they are intimately connected to cosmologies and worldviews and, therefore, also to nature itself, they use methodologies of discernment that are more holistic than scientific, economic, military, etc. perspectives, they pay attention to the voices of broken people and broken creatures, they can mobilize and motivate people. There is a great need for these religious voices, also amongst politicians and leaders who are facing the current challenges. Leadership at this level and at this moment requires a worldwide perspective and a strong rootedness in constructive and pro-active values.
(10) – I also come home with ideas about the role of the Jesuits and the Ignatian Family. They have a worldwide presence, a universal scope and reach at many levels that they can efficiently interconnect: presence in the field, academic research in universities, the capacity to build local and international institutions (as the Jesuit Refugee Service), possibilities to advocate at political level and in political institutions, a spirituality in which common apostolic discernment plays an important role, influence in the media of communication, etc. To have received these capacities is at this moment of history a very precious gift and puts the Ignatian Family and the Jesuits at a “kairos” in which they can commit wholeheartedly and, in doing so, rediscover who they are.
In a presentation about the regional initiatives of the United Nations, Ricardo Lagos, ex-president of Chile and special envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for climate change, has commented on two very interesting proposals regarding some of the many obstacles that are taking hold at the summit in Copenhagen. By both their content and because of whom he represents, they seem to be two very interesting suggestions. They seem to present, at least, two reasonable ways to advance the blocked negotiations.
First obstacle: Developed countries do not accept the agreement on gas emissions that are binding and compulsory to them, but not binding or compulsory to developing nations, as is the case with the current Kyoto agreement. Developing countries refuse to accept any compulsory or obligatory initiatives because they feel that these can present an unwanted economic burden. They will only agree to the initiatives if they are ‘generously’ financed. And it does not seem that any party is ready to put forth the money. The alternative, as Lagos has commented, could be to prepare a ‘catalog’ of possible initiatives in order to reduce the emissions of gas. The developing countries would voluntarily agree to some of the measures in order to contribute to the global reduction of emissions. These would be binding agreements for the participating countries, but they would be able to choose how to meet the demands according to the local economic, geographical and social reality. For the time being, the agreements only address global figures. This could be overcome by recurring to national plans of action that are in agreement with pre-established conditions. Among theses conditions, reforestation could play a prominent role.
Second obstacle: Some countries will not allow for an international body to supervise the emission of gases. This is seen as a threat to their sovereignty. The proposal would be to establish a regional supervision in direct relation to the regional branches of the United Nations. Regional supervision may be easier to accept. Logically, all countries have more influence at the regional level than they do globally. It would seem more like supervision among neighbors.
These kind of proposals bring fresh air to the negotiations, so necessary in the midst of discouraging perspectives.
Posted by Frances Orchard CJ.
‘Race to save Climate Change’ and ‘COP Out?’ are the media headlines as the Climate Change Conference moves into its final few days. Today the Ministers are at work with the negotiators and tomorrow over a hundred Heads of State arrive to ‘seal the deal’ – or not. What is so frustrating about this conference is that there is little dissent among the various parties as to what needs to be done. The obstacles are all about how to do it; who should pay for what; and who can take an advantage over political rivals.
On Friday last the COP15 chairman’s draft report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG LCA) set out clearly what needed to be done:
‘A long-term and ambitious global goal for emission reductions, as part of the shared vision for long-term cooperative action, should be based on the best scientific knowledge and supported by medium-term goals for emission reductions, taking into account historical responsibilities and an equitable share in the atmospheric space.’
The draft report stated the ultimate objective of (i) an increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels of not more than 2°C or even 1.5°C, (ii) a global reduction of emissions of between 50% -95% from the 1990 levels by 2050, (iii) developed countries should provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, and technology to support the adaptation action needed in developing countries.
If this could be achieved it would amount to the FAB (‘fair, ambitious and binding’) success that the Alliance of NGOs (CAN) is seeking. However, the gaps between the different countries to reach agreement are enormous. The emission reductions currently on the table from developing and developed countries will fail to meet the challenge posed by science. At this rate the world will be closer to a catastrophic 4°C temperature increase rather than the scientifically desirable 1.5°C. There is then the huge financial gap between what is needed for mitigation and adaptation in relation to climate change and what the developed countries are offering. The EU has put forward some quite generous offers, and Norway and Mexico are proposing a new green fund, but collectively the developed countries financial contributions fall far short of what is needed. All this is undermining the trust that must be present if a FAB deal is to be realized. Threats and accusations, mistrust and suspicion – particularly between industrialized and developing countries – are surfacing as the time pressure mounts. The US has been assigned the role of ‘the elephant in the room’ as its offers fall far short of of the category ‘ambitious.’ But as Al Gore reminded us at a presentation yesterday if the Americans can put a man on the moon then they can throw their weight behind a FAB deal – if they want to. Al Gore concluded his presentation by challenging the politicians: ‘We have the solutions and we have the technology. We need the political will. I believe that political will is a renewable source.’
Both Connie Hedegaard, the President of COP15, and Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN have addressed the NGOs and urged them to put pressure on their respective governments to commit to a FAB deal. It is therefore a little less than ironic that NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to access the Bella Conference Centre. We have been told that the Bella Centre has a capacity for 15,000 and that 45,000 registered for COP15. Now that the politicians and Heads of State are arriving in force with their entourages and the press pack in pursuit, the number of NGOs allowed admission, even if in possession of a valid pass, is being cut. Yesterday we required an additional pass to gain access so as to cut the total number of NGOs to 7,000. Tomorrow, the 17th December, NGO delegates will be cut back to 1,000. The authorities have not yet informed us how the rationing is to be done. If it is anything like the chaos outside the Centre over the past few days we may just to ‘frozen out’ in both senses of the world as temperatures in Copenhagen drop to below zero and NGOs stick it out in the cold – some for ten hours – to gain access. As I write, I can hear the chanting of protests going on in a different part of the Centre. My guess that it is the NGOs are protesting inside the Centre whilst they still can. Keeping up public pressure by whatever means is critical over the next few days.
There are plenty of cartoons doing the rounds here at the Bella Centre. One I found particularly apt was of two under-nourished polar bears each, mobile in hand, sitting on a rapidly melting iceberg. One phones the other with the news: ‘It’s Copenhagen. They say can we hang on for another twelve months?’ I am not getting sentimental about polar bears, but as symbols for the future of humanity time is not on our side – not here at COP15 and not for the humanity unless we can achieve a FAB deal.
En una presentación sobre acciones regionales de Naciones Unidas el ex – presidente chileno Ricardo Lagos, enviado especial del Secretario General de Naciones Unidas para el cambio climático, ha comentado dos propuestas muy interesantes, sobre otros tantos bloqueos que están atenazando la cumbre de Copenhague. Por quién lo ha hecho, y por el contenido, me parece que pueden ser dos sugerencias muy interesantes. Al menos parecen dos caminos razonables para intentar desbloquear estas negociaciones.
Primer bloqueo: Los países desarrollados no admiten un acuerdo de emisión de gases que sea solo obligatorio para ellos pero no obligatorio para el resto de países envías de desarrollo, como sucede actualmente con el Protocolo de Kioto. Los países en vías de desarrollo se resisten a aceptar compromisos obligatorios porque sienten que pueden ser una carga económica muy pesada, sólo los aceptaría si están “generosamente” financiados, y no parece que nadie esté dispuesto a poner mucho dinero. La alternativa, comentada por Ricardo Lagos, podría estar en preparar un “catálogo” de acciones posibles para reducir las emisiones de gases, los países en vías de desarrollo se comprometerían voluntariamente con algunas de estas medidas para contribuir a una reducción global de emisiones. Serían pues compromisos, que les obligarían, pero podrían elegir cómo lograrlos, con acciones adecuadas a cada realidad económica, geográfica y social. Hasta ahora los compromisos sólo hablan de cifras globales, esto podría superarse recurriendo a planes nacionales de acuerdo con este catálogo de acciones posibles preestablecidas. Entre éstas la reforestación podría jugar un papel muy importante.
Segundo bloqueo. Algunos países se niegan a una supervisión internacional de sus emisiones de gases por considerarlo una intromisión en su soberanía. La propuesta sería la de establecer una supervisión regional, en concreto a través de los organismos regionales de Naciones Unidas. La supervisión regional puede ser más fácilmente aceptada pues, lógicamente, todos los países tienen mayor influencia en los organismos regionales que en otros de nivel mundial. Sería algo así como los vecinos vigilándose mutuamente.
En medio de este ambiente tan pesimista, con posiciones tan enfrentadas y sin buenas noticias, escuchar propuestas concretas como éstas que promueven el consenso es una buena noticia.
Hoy hemos conseguido entrar en el Bella Center después de dos horas de espera, en parte por mala sincronización de los organizadores con la policía danesa, pero tememos que el jueves sea mucho más difícil o imposible. Y mientras la prensa se entretiene contando la cantidad de gente que no puede entrar, las negociaciones continúan aunque nadie sabe concretamente hacia dónde. En la reunión diaria de CAN nadie se atreve a concretar y todo parece abierto. Se sigue discutiendo el año base desde el que medir las emisiones de gases, por supuesto las cifras de emisiones. En temas de tecnología todo el mundo reconoce su importancia pero se insiste en defender los derechos de propiedad, lo cual deja a todos los países pobres peor de cómo estaban. Todavía no hay tratamiento a las emisiones de la aviación y la marina mercante, que no estaban en el Protocolo de Kioto. No hay cifras: ni de inversiones en mitigación y mucho menos en adaptación. Por lo que parece los documentos tienen más párrafos entre corchetes [es decir que no hay acuerdo y debe ser discutido] que sin corchetes, es decir, que hay acuerdo.
Pero tranquilos, las cosas pueden ser siempre peores, parece ser que el grupo de trabajo de Visión Compartida que es el que debería elaborar unos párrafos introductorios conteniendo unos puntos básicos en los que todos los países estarían de acuerdo –significado de la crisis, gravedad y principios que deberían regir la respuesta- ha decidido renunciar. Según esta información el grupo habría decidido tirar la toalla por la imposibilidad de ponerse de acuerdo. Mal presagio.
En diez minutos comienza la ceremonia de bienvenida a los Jefes de Estado con discurso del Secretario General de Alas Naciones Unidas y mañana comienza la gran rueda de dirigentes del mundo: hasta 100 Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno van a tener tres minutos para lanzar su mensaje. A algunos, me imagino, que les resultará casi imposible someterse a los tres minutos. En turnos de tres minutos hablarán hasta la madrugada del jueves al viernes.
Llegados a este punto esta es la gran esperanza: la presión que va a provocar la presencia de tantos dirigentes en Copenhague es lo que puede mover a que se consiga un acuerdo, pero ¿será un acuerdo justo, ambicioso y legalmente vinculante? Optimistas y pesimistas tienen tres días para disfrutar de sus sensaciones.
Posted by Frances Orchard CJ
Climate Justice is a concept that has gained momentum as the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen has continued. Earlier in the week I attended a seminar on Climate Justice at which a statistician from India presented a case for historic justice by determining the global costs of mitigation. Her statistics were impressive and her case persuasive, but within the overall framework of the task facing COP15 not hugely helpful. Her argument went like this: if the developed countries that have enjoyed two centuries of growth stimulated by fossil fuels were to pay their debt to the rest of the world for the ecological damage done then huge sums should be changing hands between the north and the south. Her statistics were based on an historical analysis of the per capita figures in industrialized and non-industrialized countries since 1850 and she produced a figure somewhere in the billions of dollars that she claimed the north owed to the south. The problem with this sort of analysis is that the bases for such statistics is questionable; the benefits of industrialization enjoyed by developing countries is omitted from the equations; and given the critical need to persuade the leaders at COP to agree a package for a temperature increase of not more than 2°C her case was never going to reach the table. However, one could see the logic.
Much more persuasive in her presentation on Climate Justice was Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Unfortunately, she only spoke briefly as a panel member at a side event on ‘Climate justice, ethics, and the Copenhagen agenda: Roles of Institutions, civil society and markets’. She interpreted Climate Justice much more broadly than the previous speaker. As a life long advocate of human rights she now focuses on climate justice because she views it as one and same things. The injustices caused by climate change affect everyone – those deprived of food as climate changes alter the growing season patterns and land is bought up for bio-fuel development; those deprived of fresh water as minerals and chemicals leak into the aquifers and rivers; those whose health is affected by the spread of malaria and other preventable diseases. In the highlands of Ethiopia, for example, areas which have never known malaria because the climate was too cold for the mosquitoes, now suffer from malaria; the right to education as children are forced to go to work instead of attending school; and most significantly the right to life as climate patterns change and hurricanes, typhoons, sea surges, contaminated water sources, famines; increasing hunger, and disease take their toll. Climate change undermines our concept of human rights – especially those in fragile environments – where women and children are the hardest hit. In most developing countries where 70-80% of farming is done by women it will be the women who are responsible for drawing and the carrying the water; the women who provide and cook the food; the women who collect the firewood. In Darfur we heard that the increase in the number of women raped coincided with the increasing distance they had to walk to collect firewood.
Climate change is rising to the top of the list of human rights because it affects every aspect of life and human dignity. The incorporation of a rights-based approach would enable the UNFCCC to make human rights a cross-cutting issue that would strengthen the sustainability and effectiveness of climate change policies at UN level.
Upon reception of his Nobel Peace Prize on Dec 10, 2009, US President Barack H. Obama held a remarkable lecture on many accounts, e.g. his references throughout what he said and his willingness to discuss hope and religion. What he said will most certainly draw very diverse reactions, particularly his willingness to face squarely the reality of war as inevitable under certain circumstances, as well as the rules to wage war.
Here, I just want to focus on two aspects of the talk that seem important amidst environmental challenges such as global climate change. He addresses the issue directly in a small paragraph that relates to the security issues involved with development, food, water, medicine, education and job availability. B. Obama says: “And that is why helping farmers feed their people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.” B. Obama emphasizes the security issues regarding climate change. I agree that is an important element in the discussion, and I have not seen many military issues discussed at COP15, although obviously amongst the consequences of climate change we will find great societal and social disruption and unrest. One could argue that B. Obama does not point out that there is an even much larger security issue facing us: the security of the planet itself is at risk and the consequences of climate change concern the very survival of the human race and of life on the planet as a whole.
The second aspect I want to highlight in B. Obama’s address is his clear focus on his responsibilities as head of a state and, therefore, as responsible for his nation. This is most understandable, of course, but one keeps wondering how the responsibilities of a head of state relate to the concern and the care for the planet as a whole. There is need for worldwide leadership beyond national leadership. This tension is very present in the Bella Center: nations, diplomats, ministers and heads of state stand for their own nations’ interests and needs and they enter into economic and political competition as planetary resources are concerned. The poor and weak who suffer the consequences of a lack of worldwide leadership, remind us of the necessity and urgency of a broader scope than the mere nation.
COP15 has clearly moved into a new stage. On Saturday, authorities announced that they would limit the number of entries per NGO – new passes, of which only a limited number have been made available, are needed. The reason is, of course, security: ministers and heads of state have started arriving in Copenhagen. And there are a lot of people accredited to COP15 – parties, of course, but also an unprecedented number of press and members of NGO. But the measure is highly unusual in the context of UN organized meetings and some protest has already been voiced.
This morning, people were queuing up in large numbers at the entrance of the Bella Center, already accredited people and people looking for accreditation – many people have shown up for COP15’s second week, overwhelmingly many. Fortunately, accredited people as José Ignacio and myself, could enter quite easily. We went first to a side-event organized by Caritas Internationalis and the World Council of Churches (WCC): “To Renew the Face of the Earth: Climate Justice from a Faith Perspective”. There was first an encouraging talk by Joy Kennedy, a member of the WCC Working Group on Climate Change. Followed an intervention by Rev. Fr. Erny Gillen, President of Caritas Europa and Vice-President of Caritas Internationalis. Tofiga Falani, the President of the Congregational Christian Church in Tuvalu, spoke moving words about the situation of his fellow-citizens. This side event made it abundantly clear that religion has a role to play in the climate change crisis, and that this role complements the work of scientists, economists and politicians by emphasizing the spiritual-theological and moral aspects of people involved in the crisis. It became also clear that there still is a lot of work to do for theologians and specialists in spirituality. Archbishop Rowan William’s sermon yesterday gave an excellent example of how these issues can be addressed, empowering people and at the same time challenging leadership.
Al Gore and Nordic ministers offered a side event on “Greenland Ice Sheet – Melting Snow and Ice: Calls for Action”, which I very much wanted to attend, but the room was overfilled and I was not allowed in (a press conference illustrated the issues). Polar ice is melting much faster than has been expected, rendering North Pole summers ice free in about 10 years. This will result in powerful climate feedbacks affecting continents and people far beyond the Arctic itself. It will also result in the Arctic becoming one of the most strategic areas of the globe. The side events here at COP15 have made it clearer to me, that many of the complexities of worldwide climate change are still insufficiently explored. The effects on and of ocean warming and acidification as well as on and of polar ice melting are high on the scientific agenda.
In a conference later on the day, Seán McDonagh reminded me of the importance of climate restitution: rich countries may not having been aware of their actions on global climate, but these actions resulted in harm, that calls for restitution. It is as if unwillingly and unknowingly we would poison our neighbor’s house. Christians would have to recognize the damage their actions have done and they would feel called to do restitution, to repair the damage done. This climate justice and reparation is at stake in the COP15 talks: legally binding agreements would secure this justice both for mitigation and adaptation. African countries today made it very clear that they call for a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, so as to safeguard at least the existing legally binding agreements (see also John Vidal’s reporting on The Guardian website). Some of the developed countries and some of the richer developing countries seem to want to undo the KP, including it in one track with the Convention (UNFCCC), which, unfortunately, does not contain such legally binding features.
Acaba de terminar la presentación titulada “Renueva la faz de la tierra: una aproximación a la justicia climática desde la fe”. Ha sido un acto organizado por Caritas Internacional y el Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias. Ha sido el único acto explícitamente cristiano entre todos los actos paralelos que se han organizado en la Conferencia de Copenhague. En él han particiapado Joy Kennedy, del Grupo de Trabajo del Cambio Climático del Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias; Joy ha insistido en la necesidad de superar un debate meramente técnico para reconocer que estamos ante un asunto que toca aspectos fundamentales del ser humano, por eso cree que los creyentes tenemos mucho que aportar. Erny Gillen es el presidente de Caritas Europa, él ha identificado la relación naturaleza-cultura-historia como un sistema que se retroalimenta continuamente, nuestro reto está en que tenemos el “poder” de cambiar la situación de este mundo. Tenemos que mover nuestra voluntad, y las de los políticos, en esa dirección para hacer que la pobreza “sea historia”, algo del pasado. El último en intervenir ha sido Tofiga Falani de la Iglesia Congregacional Cristiana de Tuvalu . Tuvalu se está haciendo muy famosa en esta conferencia porque es una isla-estado del pacífico que está seriamente amenazada de desaparecer sumergida por efecto del crecimiento del nivel del mar, a causa del cambio climático. Su intervención ha sido el testimonio de un creyente comprometido con una realidad tan desconcertante como es la de una seria amenaza medioambiental para su pueblo, un canto de esperanza en medio de una situación tan difícil de afrontar.
Creo que la realización de este acto es muy de agradecer a Caritas y el Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias. Todos sentíamos que faltaba algo así. Es verdad que el Vaticano tiene su representación oficial pero era sorprendente que esta Conferencia no hubiera un propuesta explícitamente religiosa entre el cúmulo de organizaciones y actividades. Así que lo más importante es agradecer la iniciativa.
Los participantes, y esto nos pasa a menudo, éramos del “club”, es decir la mayoría de los asistentes eran creyentes, muchos participantes activos en grupos religiosos involucrados en cuestiones medioambientales. Una vez más la difícil cuestión de cómo llegar a los no habituales, cómo hacer que nuestro mensaje pueda traspasar los límites de nuestras parroquias, comunidades, grupos.
Otra cuestión importante tiene que ver por la “calidad” de nuestras propuestas. No las técnicas, eso sabemos que no son nuestra competencia. Afirmamos que las religiones, las Iglesias, tenemos influencia en el comportamiento de las personas, que tocamos dimensiones que afectan a su manera de entender la vida y de actuar consecuentemente. Pero, ¿de verdad nuestras comunidades, parroquias o grupos son significativos por sus compromisos medioambientales? ¿Nuestros estilos de vida están marcados por la preocupación por un mundo –también el físico- posible para todos? ¿Cuándo las personas quieren vivir de una manera más responsable y solidaria, también en términos ecológicos, acude a nuestras parroquias? Sin duda que hay iniciativas concretas, pero como Iglesias ¿estamos de verdad marcando un estilo de vida en estas cuestiones? Me temo que nos queda mucho por hacer, tal vez por eso no se nos escuche tanto.
5. How far can we trust science and technology to resolve the climate change crisis? Should we take into account the limits of science and technology?
We need good, accurate and independent science. This is more and difficult to access, as in recent decades Corporations have colonized the Science Departments of many of our Universities, especially in the area of the biological sciences and Chemistry. They now decide what is taught in biology, chemistry, and even geology. While science is important – if one takes seriously that we live in a finite world, then we cannot continue to have exponential levels of economic growth. Science will not save us. We need to live in a more sustainable way, which ultimately springs from our moral and religious values. Pope John Paul II was very clean on this in a document published on January 1st 1990, entitled, Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation.
It is important to remember that technological solutions, which appear almost miraculous at one period, often have a sting in their tail. The best example is, of course, ChlorofluoroCarbons (CFCs) which were discovered in the early part of the 20th century and were considered a great break- through in the field of refrigeration. They were stable, non-inflammable and non-toxic chemicals. Five decades later, scientists in the Antarctic realized that they were responsible for destroying the Ozone Layer of the atmosphere.
6. Would link in their depth the climate change crisis and the recent financial and economic crisis?
There are links, but there are profound differences. The links revolve around theories which see no limits to creating money for a few, and exploiting natural resources. In the financial world, bankers though that they had discovered some magic, mathematical formulae which would minimize, or eliminate risks, and create enormous wealth ex nihilo. They were profoundly wrong. Capitalism in its various manifestations, discounts the natural world altogether from its calculations. In doing so, they have promoted plunder of the natural world, and a cavalier attitude toward dealing with the waste produced by our industrial societies. Both are externalities which do not have to be accounted for and, after all the market will take care of everything. It hasn’t, and it will not. What you get is impoverishment of the majority of people, especially in the Majority world and destruction of the earth.
But there are profound differences. As we have seen, it is possible to bail out the banks and recapitalize them with taxpayers money. When humans bring about irreversible ecological changes, such as is happening with the increase of greenhouse gases, it is impossible to bail out the environment. If Copenhagen does not come up with a robust treaty that will see a peaking of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, then there is no possibility of keeping the average global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. No amount of money will be able to repair the damage for the 30 million Bangladeshis who live in low-lying areas in their country. Melted glaciers in the Andes will mean no water for the 10 million inhabitants of Lima, Peru. These are just two examples among thousands of others. Everyone on the planet will suffer, but the poor will suffer most.
7. Are a good response to the climate change crisis on the one side and the care for the development of poorer countries not contradictory?
Care for the Earth and care for humans are inextricably linked. Human beings are not able to access energy directly from the sun. We need plant life and other creatures that eat plants. We cannot survive for more than a few minutes with fresh air, for a few days without water and a few weeks without food. We are directly dependent on the natural world, though we often forget this in our economics and even our theology. If we destroy habitants were plants or other species grow, then human well-being will diminish. If we pollute water, our tears will be toxic. The late Fr. Thomas Berry was fond of repeating that, you cannot have well human beings on a sick planet.
Greed is the vice which facilitates the plunder the planet. It is the same vice which controls and exploits other human beings for our own good. We need to create institutions which do not allow powerful, rich individuals, corporations or nations to plunder the earth and, in the process, enslave other human beings.