Home > Churches, Climate Change, COP 15, Indigenous People, Spirituality > COP15: More Is Needed than Financial and Economic Wizardry

COP15: More Is Needed than Financial and Economic Wizardry

A session organized by the delegation of the Netherlands on Mitigation Efforts of Developed Countries – Will It Be Enough?, submerged me in the kind of financial and economic details most probably determine the negotiations at COP15. The various presentations attempted to map and model various strategies for keeping global warming under 2°C, taking into account pledges made by developed countries and the so-called REDD factor, concerned with reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. More financial and economic wizardry appears, when speakers address the so-called “hot air” generated by the economic decline of Russia and the Ukraine or when they point out that the 17% GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions’ reduction pledged by the USA refers to the baseline 2005 and means a reduction of a mere 3% when the “usual” baseline of 1990 is taken. The overall perspective of the Dutch seemed to me rather pessimistic: many more pledges are necessary if the goal is to keep the 2°C limit …

For a theologian with some background in mathematics, all of this is not easy to grasp, and it is clear that it would be worthwhile to have some specialists in economics and financing amongst us in Copenhagen. My personal frustration is that I have the impression that COP15 is being reduced to finding economic and financial solutions to a crisis, the seriousness of which has been laid out before us by the scientists of the IPCC, who have been asked explicitly to avoid any political interpretation of their measurements and models – the use of the word “urgency” in the IPCC presentation was already too much for some of the journalists present … The crisis is reduced to a technical problem, for which we can design a series of possible solutions among which to choose. Politics seem reduced to applied economics and financing. Ethical questions do not seem to be addressed; religious perspectives have nearly completely disappeared out of the Bella Center. Moreover, I am somewhat surprised not to see military people here – they may be present, but I have not seen uniforms – and there is a growing suspicion in me that at some moment of time the issue of global warming and security needs to be addressed. I hope that there are psychologists and sociologists amongst the negotiators, and not only amongst the representatives of IGOs or NGOs. In short, I miss the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary environment that seems to be necessary for addressing the worldwide crisis. The narratives of suffering people, such as the indigenous people, remind us of this; the cold calculations of the economists and financial experts – however important and crucial they may be – seem to hide the fact that we are facing questions about just and equitable life styles and about sustainable life together on the planet earth and in close and even intimate connection with it. A complex, interwoven and holistic perspective is required – at least, I think so – that even our best available science cannot yet offer, and that is certainly truncated if only its economic and financial aspects are taken under consideration. I think it is a gift from indigenous traditions but also from religions to intuit and suggest such holistic perspectives and worldviews.

Institutionalized religions, churches and organizations offer opportunities for inspiring spiritual depth as well as the means of spaces in which experiences of concrete people, political reflection and advocacy, broad and interdisciplinary scientific reflection, and mobilization of public opinion. As a Jesuit, I feel that there is a task here for the Society of Jesus and for the Ignatian Family. As a Roman Catholic, I feel that a clear voice from those who have the most universal and broad perspective, is urgently needed to complement and strengthen the many initiatives that are already functioning at local levels. There are already some cautious declarations. More is needed. This would undoubtedly enrich the Bella Center and the participants at COP15.

  1. Professor Michael Northcott
    December 10, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Thank you for your insightful blog on Copenhagen for those of us who are not there. A spiritual perspective is urgently needed on climate change. Obsessive commitment to economic growth in countries that have already too much is about a refusal to do justice, about personal greed, and about corporate wickedness. This is the manifestation of a deep and growing spiritual lack in Western societies after Christendom. The multisensory engagement with the life of Christ and the Saints commended by Ignatius in the Exercises is never more needed as an antidote to consumerism which continues to drive emissions growth in the West, which has not ‘peaked’ as the leaked Danish draft of the proposed Copenhagen Treaty suggests, but merely been exported to developing countries which are in the new Treaty now said to be the ones who are to blame for climate change. The Jesuits also have a long memory of the wickedness of colonialism. The draft Treaty is a classic colonial document.

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