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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A group of faith communities has warned “time is running out” as the negotiations at the United Nations COP26 climate change conference reach “a critical moment.”
The document, signed by over 40 faith leaders, including several Catholic bishops, called for “urgent and ambitious action to deliver justice for the most vulnerable people and communities.”
The religious leaders claimed the current negotiations are failing in three main areas:
– The current texts “remain worryingly unbalanced. While there is progress on mitigation, it is shocking that there is limited reference to action needed to address increasing climate impacts.”
– Referencing the “loss and damage” caused by climate change in the draft decision text without identifying any concrete action to offer compensation or repair the damage “is offensive and immoral.”
– The texts on finance “fail to provide confidence that the overdue pledge of $100 billion a year in support for poorer countries will be delivered.” They added that the commitment on adaptation, as part of that finance pledge, also “falls significantly short.”
“The current text does not address the fact that most public finance comes in loans, which are adding to the burden of debt for climate-vulnerable countries, nor the challenges on access,” the religious leaders continued.
“World leaders must now step up and deliver a clear, actionable text that strengthens previous agreements and puts those living on the frontline of the climate crisis at its heart,” the document said.
The faith communities called world leaders at COP26 “to preserve all of God’s Creation” by recognising the urgency of the climate crisis, “including language in the text that encourages all countries, but especially major emitters, to come forward annually” at each UN climate change conference with new ambition announcements that exceed their current targets.
They also called on all countries to address loss and damage due to climate change through mobilising a separate and additional funding stream separate to finance for mitigation and adaptation to changes caused by climate change.
Finally, they called on richer governments to fulfil their promises and deliver the $100 billion promised for 2020 and every year up to 2025.
“This must be a 50/50 split between mitigation and adaptation, must be in the form of grants and not loans, and address access issues so the finance reaches those who need it most,” the leaders said.
Also on Nov. 12, CAFOD – the international development agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales – said activists must make sure countries are sticking to the ambition of keeping global temperature rises to within 1.5° Celsius from pre-industrial levels, whether they are genuinely providing the money that’s needed to help vulnerable countries adapt and cope with the climate crisis, and whether fossil fuels are really being consigned to history.
“Announcements have been made about keeping 1.5 alive, phasing out coal, deforestation and ending finance for fossil fuels,” said Neil Thorns, the director of advocacy at CAFOD.
“This is good. Some of these commitments are new and with deadlines of this year and next year for stopping funding fossil fuels overseas – turning the tide on government money going to invest in coal, oil and gas,” he said.
“But others have deadlines in the future and are repackaged from earlier announcements. For communities living with the reality of climate change, it’s the implementation of these things that is critical. We need concrete policies that are quickly turned into action immediately if we are to keep warming below 1.5 degrees,” Thorns continued.
He also emphasized the importance of “loss and damage” during COP26, “which is essentially the rich countries who’ve done the most to cause climate change accepting liability for the damage that’s already being done to smaller, vulnerable nations and providing financial compensation for that damage.”
“This is a vitally important issue at COP26 because without this finance there is little trust from the climate-vulnerable nations in the whole process. So far little has been promised. Look out for news about loss and damage in the final days of COP26,” he said, echoing the statement by the faith leaders.
Thorns said he is encouraged by some of the promises being made, but he doubts many of them will be followed through unless public pressure is put on political leaders.
“Governments like making announcements but they don’t so much like being held accountable for putting those promises into place. We need to keep up the pressure. COP26 is about building for the future. We need to keep making our voices heard,” he said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome