Climate change: Challenge for lifestyles, solidarity and global justice
Six months ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Churches and church organisations discussed with EU representatives the ethical dimension of the fight against climate change. The Dialogue Seminar which took place on June 17 and organised by the CSC of CEC, COMECE, and the Bureau of European Policy Advisers of the European Commission was dedicated to the issue of climate change as a challenge for lifestyles, solidarity and global justice. For a whole day, representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States exchanged views with representatives of the Churches on the basis of the latest scientific evidence on climate change.
The Vice-Chair of the IPCC, Prof. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele presented the latest figures concerning climate change according to which the EU’s emissions’ reductions target of a maximum of 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels would not be sufficient to ensure keeping global warming below 2°C. Prof. Helga Kromp-Kolb, meteorologist and winner of several scientific awards emphasised, with regard to the EU’s negotiating position in the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference, that: “30% is not enough, 2°C is already too high and 2020 is too late”.
Both EU and Church representatives agreed on the urgency of the situation that climate change has become a question of survival, especially for the poor and vulnerable who will be the first to suffer. Karl Falkenberg, Director General for DG Environment at the European Commission stated, “We, the European Union, have not only to assume our responsibility but also to be the leader for the rest of the world. The outcome of Copenhagen will be positive only if we manage to convince other large emitters like China, India or Russia to join our commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
Rev. Henrik Grape from the Church of Sweden proposed to add symbolically three empty chairs at all climate negotiations - representing the poor, future generations and creation itself. Participants emphasised that it is a special responsibility of the Churches to speak in favour of those three non-participants.
Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of CIDSE and Marlene Grundström from APRODEV recalled on behalf of the Christian development aid organisations that the fight against climate change is strongly linked to development policy and warned against the lack of solidarity towards developing countries in the final stage of the Copenhagen negotiations. “In Copenhagen, we need answers, not deals” Nilles said.
HE Metropolitan Athanasios of Achaia stated that “Our overwhelming problems, such as environmental pollution, pollution of seas, contaminated food supplies, the squandering of energy sources and climate change (…) are issues that concern the human rights of future generations”.
Rev. Rüdiger Noll, Director and Associate General Secretary of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) put an emphasis on the principle of justice and the responsibility for developed countries “to save the harmony of creation”.
Commitment to Action
Many Church representatives spread the message of hope and showed their commitment to ambitious mitigation targets and lifestyle changes. The Secretary General of COMECE, Fr Piotr Mazurkiewicz held that “an effective response to climate change requires both political leadership and ethical reflection and debate. These are essential in order to win over not only minds but also the hearts of citizens and to make change effective” and he posed the question “What is a good and happy life about?”. On the basis of numerous expert and reflection papers issued by Churches and Church organisations over recent years, participants stressed that the necessary lifestyle changes can be conveyed best by education at all levels and by encouraging more responsible consumer habits. In this respect, Klaus Kögler, Head of Unit for Sustainable Production and Consumption in DG Environment, and Prof. theol. Andreas Lienkamp emphasised the need for an “infrastructure” favouring eco-responsible choices and behaviour.
Concluding the Seminar, the representatives of Churches shared in a willingness to address a message of Hope to all EU citizens and encourage them to implement the necessary lifestyle changes. In return, representatives of the Commission and of the European Parliament agreed that the support of Churches in the fight against climate change is crucial in convincing citizens to adopt climate friendly behaviour in their daily lives.