During Thanksgiving dinner, the Rev. Lisa Garvin’s family asked her why she was headed to Paris as part of a United Methodist delegation participating in the U.N. climate conference.
After all, what role can the church play in negotiations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP21?
As Garvin noted in a video message from Paris, United Methodists are among the people around the world most effected by climate change.
“I’m proud to be part of a global church that reminds us of humanity’s responsibility for the stewardship of God’s creation and keeps that at the center of these conversations,” she said.
Providing advocacy, prayer support
Garvin is part of a United Methodist Board of Church and Society delegation now in Paris to advocate, with other faith groups, for climate justice. She is a member of the Mississippi Conference and acting dean of the chapel and religious life at Emory University.
A delegation from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries also arrived Dec. 2 to connect with faith partners and offer worship and prayer support.
Faith groups at the conference include the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, ACT Alliance, Our Voices, the Conference of European Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
“The momentum towards change has come, and it might be stronger than we understand,” wrote the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC’s top executive, in an Advent message just before the summit began.
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Faith advocates have delivered a petition with nearly 1.8 million signatures, spent time together in organizing sessions and demonstrated “the hunger for climate justice” at a lunch table with knives and forks but no food.
Jennifer Ferariza Meneses, Philippines Central Conference, and Daniel Obergfell, Germany Central Conference, took part in early strategy sessions. They are part of the Church and Society team.
Obergfell said he was amazed at how well people from different faiths, representing different parts of the world, could “work closely together to get a common voice in the consultation in the coming two weeks.”
John Hill, a Church and Society executive and the team leader, echoed that optimism as the conference got underway. “I think overall there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of expectation that by the end of this week we will have a new binding agreement to address the climate crisis,” he said.
The United Methodist Social Principles recognize the threat of the greenhouse gas emissions to the planet and to generations to come and “support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions.”
Top executives of Global Ministries, Church and Society, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits and United Methodist Women, wrote an open letter to world leaders at COP21 as the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 summit opened.
A binding agreement “that reflects our shared principles of justice, stewardship and sustainability,” must set a long-term goal to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, require national mitigation targets, make periodic reviews of progress and provide robust financial support to drive climate action, encourage development and assist less developed nations, the letter said.
“While we recognize the challenge of forging consensus for such an ambitious, binding agreement, we believe a transparent process that prioritizes the voices of impacted communities and allows participation by civil society will build the trust needed for a successful outcome,” the letter added.