Tuesday, November 16, 2021

COP 26 - Nov. 8-11 (Burkhard Paetzold)

Swarm Intelligence for another Future

by Burkhard Paetzold

PEC Representative at COP 26


Walking along the hallways of the COP26 conference center in Glasgow feels like being part of a beehive. COP26 with a reported number of 40.000 participants is the largest global conference ever.


Being a beekeeper myself I know that our common image of a beehive being a chaotic “toing-and-froing” is not true. Bees constitute a larger organism with different groups of bees having specific roles. And, the patterns of their „dances“ are a “language” for communicating with each other. I won‘t go into detail, but it‘s fascinating to learn about this. In the end, however, we see this perceived chaos is actually a collective effort. Let’s call it swarm intelligence as a precondition to produce something beautiful, for creating the swarm’s future - honeycombs.


 Such an organism should be a beautiful image of the whole COP26 process. 


The truth is that unlike a beehive where only the queen bee, because of her ability to reproduce, has the power to hold this all together, in international relations some nations have more strength to push their interests through than others. Economically stronger nations have powerful fossil fuel lobby groups to put further pressure on the process. And, they do this not by competing in an open democratic process but by manipulation and through the back door.


The UN process, however, requires consensus, and that is good, but that process can’t avoid the tendency to water down language to the lowest common denominator.

 Beehives have a Subset of Hive frames

My „hive frames“ are the ecumenical and the wider faith community here at COP26. “Earth Beat” (https://us8.campaign-archive.com)  describes  “that both officials and the media have discovered the power of religious groups” and quotes the AP, “The faith-based movement for climate action knows no denominational boundaries, as leaders of most faith traditions see it as part of their mandate to care for the communities most vulnerable to climate change and preserve what they see as a divinely given environment”.

Without the ecumenical group organized by the ACT alliance, without our ACT colleagues’  tireless work, mindful guidance, and strong encouragement I would have been clearly lost.

And Fred and I even had some fun participating in stunts that ACT alliance set up focusing on three key messages: 

Financing Loss and Damage 

On Monday, November 8, we were actively involved in a stunt to promote a clear commitment to finance “loss and damage”. https://actalliance.org/act-news/climate-induced-loss-and-damage-is-a-harsh-reality-in-nepal-press-release-cop26/

Our action called for a solution to accept accountability for  “long-term impacts  like  sea-level  rises  as  well  as severe extreme weather events like Cyclone  Idai,  which  killed  more  than 1,000 people, left 400,000 homeless and destroyed 700,000 hectares of crops  when  it  struck  Mozambique  in 2019. International fundraising appeals raised less  than  50%  of  their  target, forcing  Mozambique  to  borrow  from international  institutions.”  As pointed out by MakeCopCount, (https://makecopcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Faiths-briefing-combined-FINAL.pdf)

“Loss  and  damage  also  includes  ‘non-economic  losses’:  that  means  things you can’t  put  a  price on, like biodiversity, sacred lands, cultural monuments or local traditions.” (ebd.)


COP21 in Paris did not address loss and damage as an independent and additional category of financing with their own rules.


Fred’s and my role was symbolizing the rich nations ignoring loss and damage needs having their ears plugged with coal and are drunk from making money with oil.

Climate Justice is Gender Justice

On Tuesday, November 9,  I joined the call to „Climate justice is Gender Justice“ and we read  short stories of women in different countries in the Global South who lost their livelihood, their jobs, their houses, their plantations or their harvest because of climate disasters.


In many climate disasters, women and girls are among the most vulnerable. We want to keep the support for them as a priority and at the same time involve more women in climate mitigation and adaptation programs and projects which do not risk reinforcing patriarchal norms in climate solutions.  

Creation is not for Sale 

And our last stunt was on Thursday, November 11, „Creation is not for sale“ when Fred and I played two “distinguished gentlemen” trying  to bribe people  to give up on praying for diversity of nature, for human rights and for keeping the trajectory of 1.5 degrees alive.

All these stunts have been shared widely through ACT alliances’ excellent media people. The “loss and damage” stunt even hit the news in Dutch national TV.

Other Frames 

One of the other „hive frames“ in a COP conference is the national and transnational pavilions, science labs and UN entities that promote aspects of climate mitigation and adaptation, e.g. those which deal with wind or solar power or those which address health, economic cooperation, or renewable energy. 


Many pavilions set up their own programs, sometimes with a limited number of panelists or audiences, but zooming in panelists from Geneva or Cape Town, Santiago or Warsaw. 

Most programs are life streamed and can be accessed online from around the world.


And, all this hive activity happens in  parallel to the  plenaries, side events, group meetings, action zone meetings or those of best practice presentations. Several side events were organized across the city of Glasgow, some in churches, some in the Green Zone as well. 


The Zoomed-in panelists and the wider public or civil society able to participate wherever they are located, constitute an additional “global” frame for communication. 


I believe the different hive “frames” have a bond which unites them:

  • - a growing awareness of global injustice as result of a history of colonial conquest and slavery still visible today in unbalanced terms of trade and of inequities of perpetrator and victim of climate disasters
  • - the global networking of interdisciplinary  science - resulting in the IPCC report that paints an unambitious picture of the human-made climate crisis
  • - the youth taking to the streets for our common future
  • - the mushrooming of divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in alternatives 
  • - the change of business models and products  (race to net-zero) 
  • - the collaboration of cities and towns with civil society and business stakeholders for sustainable neighborhoods to establish clean energy, human-centered transportation, smart heating and cooling 
  • - the implementation of proposals from environmentalists and naturalists
  • - a new spirituality and interfaith exchange about the common ground of our human existence
  • - the redefinition of health that refers to our environment and diet, 
  • - a growing awareness of the  interconnectedness of  food production, consumption and the climate crisis


I believe there is a momentum of collective wisdom. Isn’t the interwoven build up of all relationships to save human conditions by liberating God's creation on this globe a way to worship God?… like the way bee swarms produce honeycombs and care for and create their future is, in its deepest sense, a worship to the creator? 


What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Post Scriptum, November 13


I returned home on Friday, November 12 and am just finishing my diary while watching the COP26 “end-game,” and as always there are  “cliffhangers” and a “show down”. It looks like those who wanted to water down the Glasgow Climate Pact  and had been unable to succeed in the open argumentation process used a last minute intervention knowing they actually don’t have arguments, but power - I can only see this as their clear weakness.  Or as the trade union speaker at an NGO forum said: “We are many and you are few”. 


Please read the final press release of Act alliance at https://actalliance.org/act-news/faith-leaders-more-must-be-done-to-achieve-climate-justice-after-cop26/

Photo Simon Chambers

Photo Albin Hillert

Monday, November 15, 2021

COP 26, Week Two, November 9-13 (Fred Milligan)

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.  - Frederick Douglass

 by Fred Milligan

PEC Representative at COP 26

Wall Art in Progress

The events of this COP26 have proven this in spades. 

The second week started out as more of the same kinds of events:

A program sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Church of Sweden (Lutheran Church) on their efforts to have the concept of “ecocide” or the destruction of species and eco-systems become codified in international law was explained in one event.

Another event focused on the intersection of human rights with the loss and damage related to climate change and the efforts to combat these.

We viewed  a video of a speaker from an Asian country who commenting on the efforts of multi-national companies to silence those attempting to protect their rights to clean land, air and water said: “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” 

The woman representing the Quakers at the United Nations spoke about a document, long in the formation stage that will be coming before the U.N. General Assembly in the coming session establishing that environmental rights are human rights. 

A Young woman from Pacific islands expressed frustration and anger about the propensity of the developed world to try to find technological solutions to problems which local people already understand how to deal with. She described her culture’s practice of designating sectors of the ocean around their island as set aside for a certain period of time for replenishment.  Afterwards the area is re-opened for fishing with rituals and prayers that honor the intricate nature of the relationship they have with the sea creatures.

She said: “We’re sick of the talking, just bring on the action of phasing out fossil fuels. No more blah, blah, blah.”

A young Brazilian man said that greed is a great part of the problem. “It’s important for young activists to learn from older generations who lived when the skies were still blue.”

A Franciscan priest from the Philippines spoke about how November 8 was the anniversary of cyclone Hayan that killed 10,000 people in one night bringing the nation to its knees in grief and anguish.

A human rights approach to climate change mitigation

Is one that takes the power and money dynamics seriously


A Catholic sister from Srilanka spoke to the reality of climate anxiety and fear. 

There was an Ecumenical service of solidarity with Custodians of the Forest Organised by Christian Aid and held at the Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church, 13 Kelvinhaugh Street, Glasgow

It included first hand reports from people putting their lives at risk to stand in the way of the destruction of the Amazon rain forest.

The Preacher spoke on Romans 8 text about the creation being subjected to frustration through the abuse being inflicted upon it through all the extractive and exploitative processes of human efforts to dominate the land and those who attempt to protect it. The scripture speaks of how the earth is “waiting expectantly for the revealing of the children of God.” She then said: “If we need to be revealed, it may be that we are hiding for some reason? Why are we hiding? Is it because we have been neglecting our role as the tenders and keepers of creation? Her conclusion on Paul’s meaning in these verses for our day is that by freeing ourselves from the self-imposed bondage of hiding (as children of God, and care-takers of the earth) we will turn from our support of the status quo abuse and assist with liberate creation so that it may be healed and made whole along with humanity.

State Department Negotiating Team “Up-date” Meeting

On Wednesday, the draft agreement was released and I suddenly realized that I needed to find a way to connect with the U.S. negotiating team. I was particularly excited by the fact that this draft made the first mention since the Paris Agreement, calling for the phasing out of fossil fuels.

Then, as I was looking for a place to sit for lunch, I encountered a member of the U.S. sub-committee on finance. She was unable to commit to the kind of lobbying I had in mind, but gave me her email address and offered to pass along my emailed request for a meeting to the person in charge of “constituency relations”.

As it turned out, this was the same person who had been sending daily updates to Bill Somplasky-Jarman, who had already given me that person’s contact info. I received a quick response from him and filled out the contact form, which included a request for our “point of contact” who was Rebecca Barnes back in Louisville. 

First thing the following day, there was a note from Rebecca that I had been invited to join an “Up-date” micro-soft Teams call with the lead negotiator. It was not the one-on-one conversation I had hoped for but it was the closest I would come to making direct input into the negotiating team. 

I passed along the link to a few others and once on the call noted that it also included individuals still in the U.S. as well as some of us who were in Glasgow a total of 61 persons.

The moderator had invited a member of the U.S. department of transportation to the call and it was something of a “dog and pony” show about the carbon reducing and climate change focused elements of the just passed infrastructure legislation. But then the moderator did an overview of what is called the “Cover Decision” paper omitting any mention of the precedent setting line in the draft.

So, when the opportunity came for questions I posted my “raised hand” and then had to wait for a long time through what I considered mostly tedious minutae of rather technical responses to other questions before suddenly hearing my name called.

I expressed concern that the moderator had failed to mention the call to halt the use of fossil fuels in the draft of the cover decision document. The response was that the U.S. team was “not opposed” to anything in the paragraph on mitigation, including the line about fossil fuels and saw the current language as the “floor” which could be built upon for an even stronger statement.

However, his hesitance to single out the fossil fuel language led me along with Burkhard and Bill who were also listening in on the call, to feel that the U.S. was likely to also not be “opposed” to eliminating that reference.

(I have a complete notes of the meeting should anyone be interested in seeing these.)

Interfaith Liaison Committee and the Talanoa Document

The ILC works as a platform for faith-based organisations to facilitate dialogue and action. The ILC meets during the annual UN climate negotiations and regularly online to collaborate on faith advocacy for climate ambition, embracing all the pillars of the UNFCCC and of the Paris Agreement. The World Council of Churches staffperson, Henrik Grape, along with a non-Christian female co-chair, provides leadership to this group.

This year the ILC sponsored a gathering at a local Glasgow synagogue and organized a conversation amongst those 200+ persons gathered there and on-line in a process called a Talanoa Dialogue. This is a process, originating in Pacific islands, through which each participant is offered time and space to offer up their thoughts concerning the matter being considered by the group. The group sang and prayed together and then responded to the questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there?

The process extended late into the night and included break-out discussion groups on the key themes mentioned by participants. Based on this Talanoa, Henrik and a few others developed a document that was presented to the COP leadership. I will be happy to make the entire document available to anyone who would like to see it, but here are the key “asks”:



We call on COP26 to

● include faith groups as a constituency in the climate talks.

We invite people of faith to

● advocate by example and highlight different ways of living with a smaller ecological footprint.

Resilience and empowerment

We invite people of faith to

● create time and spaces for meditation, prayer and silence for people to gain the perspective of working for the whole of the natural world, of which humanity is one part.

● create programmes for empowerment of people mentally, physically and materially at all levels to respond to the urgency of the present time.


We call on COP26 to

● provide more grants rather than loans and erase climate debts.

● move from “aid” to “just compensation” for the Global South.

● deliver climate finance at scale and meet the USD 100 billion finance target.

Loss and damage

We call on COP26 to

● effectively address loss and damage in a spirit of solidarity between the Global North

and Global South.

● provide new, additional and necessary finance to help poorer and more vulnerable

countries to address loss and damage.

Gender Inclusive Climate Action

We call on COP26 to

● monitor and ensure that the Gender Action Plan is implemented nationally, and in

international cooperation, including through climate finance.

● ensure that a holistic, intersectional, and transformative lens is clearly incorporated

into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Action Plans.

● develop proposals and processes in consultation with grassroots women’s



We call on COP26 to

● ensure adaptation is at the centre of the climate agenda.

● make 50% of the annual $100 billion commitment for climate action available for adaptation, and available now.

Human rights

We call on COP26 to

● promote accountability among the parties of the UNFCCC for their climate actions, in

particular in proving that their climate actions do not infringe on human rights.

● ensure policy coherence between climate change, development and human rights.

● uphold human rights principles in the NDCs.

Just Transition

We call on COP26 to

● develop spaces for social dialogue.

● ensure that the costs of transitioning to a post-fossil fuel economy do not fall on the

already vulnerable, including by providing training, compensation, and social

protection for workers.

Climate science

We call on COP 26 to

● take decisions that align with climate science delivered by IPCC reports.

● involve faith-based organisations and their traditions that promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

Indigenous people

We call on COP 26 to

● protect indigenous peoples’ rights when taking action on climate change.

● take notice of the Indigenous wisdom and worldviews.


We call on COP 26 to

● incorporate an intergenerational perspective in every decision made to halt

greenhouse gas emissions.

● ensure the representation of young people in climate discussions.

Global Governance

We call on COP 26 to

● start a process to design and build new global institutions and initiatives

based on an ethic of caring for all, with a clear commitment to take care of

each other, across the whole of the human family

● foster a spirit of ethical leadership and accountability in the UNFCCC


● close the gap between word and deed in the climate decisions made under UNFCCC


COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

In looking toward the next COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt the question was asked what specific issues or concerns members of the group might suggest for organizing our efforts there. I suggested that this location would be an excellent one for raising the topic of water rights and use, its scarcity, its symbolic place in the various religious cultures and the conflict it increasingly engenders among the various national and business interests that rely on it. The case studies of the Nile and the Jordan were suggested as important for us to lift up during our time there.


ACT Alliance Loss and Damage Event

Speakers differed somewhat on whether it is possible to actually quantify the issue of the adequate compensation due to a region for the destruction of animal habitat, such as coral reefs, whole species of life forms, etc. which, once they are gone can no longer be brought back to life. 

One speaker, however, offered that “Fair share” costs have been quantified through complex economic models as developed by an institute (in Stockholm I believe). This is based on the “polluter pays” principle, and factors in the historic amount of carbon and other greenhouse gasses and other harmful actions contributed by various nations of the “developed” world. This renders it possible and imperative that wealthy nations fund a program to make reparations and pay expenses of loss and damage.

Faith actors have an important role to play in providing healing and leadership in address loss and damage.


First Final Day, Nov. 12

We finally arrived at the last scheduled day of COP when the 196 national partners to the Paris agreement would hopefully come to an agreement on the exact wording of their “Decision Statement”. 

At our morning briefing, Cornelia, the German ACT Alliance chairperson came to our morning strategy session and announced that she had just left a consultation with the German negotiators. They had announced that the initial summation of the International Energy Agency that the various Nationally Determined Comittments and other initiatives of the previous two weeks would assure, (if fully kept) that the earth would not warm beyond an additional 1.8 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial surface temperatures, 

Counted theoretical “sinks” and the turning away from fossil fuels was “bull-shit”. When I asked for clarification about this she responded that this is because it depended upon an overly optimistic and speculative scenario in which all the nations would fulfill their committments in ways they have never done in the past. The more realistic number, she was told, is around 2.4 degrees Celsius, which is practically un-survivable. This is the number offered by the Carbon Tracker organization.

Positives and Negatives

According to one blogger, James Murray, “If you're looking for #COP26

 upsides it's notable no one is arguing about the science, no one is arguing about whether climate change is a crisis, and no one is arguing whether we need to get to net zero emissions or not. The disagreements are all about precisely how we deliver.”

The speaker from Panama was quite direct in challenging the efforts to water down the fossil fuel language and called to leave it in the ground. He also called on negotiating teams to include indegenous, female and young people and their gifts as Panama has done. The average age of their delegation is 29!

In the afternoon, there was a “People’s Plenary” approved by the Presidency and security people, that started in the Blue zone and then moved outside to join with the youth from Fridays for Future school strike. There was a good bit of chanting and speeches, but the crowd seemed small for what they were trying to accomplish. I’d say around a thousand people, tops. 


But at the end of the day, there was no agreement on the decision document and the Presidency had to work through the night to draft something that would be watered down enough for all parties to agree to support and say the event had been a success.

Second Last Day, Saturday, Nov. 13th

New drafts of an agreement on the different sections were released at 8:00 a.m. this morning and are being debated and “tweaked” (read: watered down even more.)

Another COP is now past and all the activists are frustrated and disappointed with the out-come of this event that was billed as the “last hope for planet earth.”

At the moment it appears as though this draft will be agreed.

1)It calls for the reduction and phase out of “un-abated use of coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

2)It places “loss and damage” into play as a new section of concern but without a specific financial commitment

3)It apologizes for lack of honoring the 100 billion USD per year for mitigation and adaptation transfer from wealthy nations who have created the problem to the poor nations who have contributed far less and to implement this beginning immediately.

4)Establishment and funding of the Santiago Network to provide technological expertise to poor countries

5)specific call for gender inclusiveness and local wisdom in decision-making in the process of mitigation and adaptation

6)It calls for nations to renew commitments every two years rather than the Paris agreement’s every five years.

There are many details that could have been better or different. For instance, in the last moment, after hours of “informal stock-taking” comments by one after another parties, India asked for (more likely, demanded) a revision in the text replacing the phrase “phase out the use of unabated coal with “phase down the use of unabated coal” basically stripping the most impactful element in the document. However,  it does keep the 1.5 degrees celsius surface temperature increase since pre-industrial times goal within reach. 

Once again we learn: 

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” 

Frederick Douglass


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

COP 26 - Nov. 6-8 (Fred Milligan)

 Without proper ecological education, the people will be like a bird without feathers, they will always crawl and never fly...  Patricia Congo, Kenyan speaker at COP26

by Fred Milligan

PEC Representative at COP 26

Saturday, November 6th was billed as the “Global Day of Action and Climate March”

Friday’s Youth March of some 10,000 or so with its headline speaker, Greta Thunberg fresh off the sailboat that brought her across the North Sea from Europe, had the good fortune of a rare sunny day. Saturday’s march of 100,000 had rain and cold and no really famous speakers. But we also had some rather spectacularly creative banners and symbolic sculptures such as birds, boats (and even a unicorn, though I’m told that was less to do with climate justice and more to do with the presence of the Scottish Independence Party). And we also had, after the rain stopped at around the third hour, a spectacular rainbow! Was it an omen? We could only hope. Then the section of the march that contained the 1000 or so members of the “faith block” was stopped in our tracks along with the Scottish Independence party and a number of other groups for around an hour. I had walked up ahead to check out the cause of the stoppage and learned that the police had stopped that part of the march due to some antics caused by some anarchist elements. But eventually the entire group made it to Glasgow Green where there were a few speeches (none that day by Thunberg, however).

Added together with marchers in other cities around the world, something close to one million people took to the streets that day calling for dramatic actions by governments for climate justice.

On Sunday, November 7th, I was required to preach a sermon at the congregation where I am serving in Glasgow. 

Since it was the first Sunday following All Saints Day, I decided to tie together Hebrews 11-12:2 with Psalm 127 and speak about how future generations are dependent upon our present generation just as we are dependent on those who preceded us. I quoted the speech given by Queen Elizabeth in which she called upon the world’s leaders to take bold action to stem climate change “for the sake of our children’s children and all those who will walk in their footsteps.” I mentioned “earth overshoot day”, which is the day each year that scientists have determined is the point at which humanity has used more of the earth’s resources that can be replenished in that year. In 2021 this was July 29th. I called on the congregation to consider what this means in terms of the kind of world we are leaving to future generations. I then told about the Haudenosaunee (or Iriquois) native peoples in American history who practiced what came to be called the “Seventh Generation Principle” that every important decision of the tribe should consider what impact it would have upon the future up to the seventh generation. I proposed and that we should do the same if we would follow in the footsteps of the people of faith spoken about in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. But I furthermore asserted that we are able to persevere in this difficult work because we have the accompaniment not only of that “cloud of witnesses” but because we have the presence of the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.

On Sunday evening, I attended an ecumenical service at the Glasgow Cathedral with representatives of a great number of denominations and a sermon delivered by the Executive Director of the United Methodist Church’s Global Missions department. She ended with a story about her mother’s death in the late 90’s at 11:29 in the evening. She then suggested that just as this death for her faithful mother had not been only an ending but a new beginning of her eternal life with her Lord, our current global death may also be a transition to yet greater things for life on earth. 

Afterwards a young (10 or 11ish looking) Afro-Scottish boy recited a Robert Burns poem, “A man’s a man, for all that” with such enthusiasm that we could practically understand the scots language Burns wrote it in! According to one commentary on the poem and song lyric it “describes the true worth of man and how it is not defined by wealth, position, or possessions. The poem begins with the speaker describing how man's value is not contained in how much he owns or how he acts.”

The service then ended with a blast of the magnificent organ as the organist played Aaron Copland’s, “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

Monday, November 8th started as most everyday does with taking a “lateral flow” self-test using the test kits give us the day before we picked up our name badges. We must report the test results on a government website and then receive a confirmation text and email which we then must show at the gate along with our badges in order to be admitted to the COP “Blue Zone”.

At 8:00 we log in to the morning strategy session with the ACT Alliance leadership. A few days ago, several sub-groups were set up to monitor and strategize around how best to influence the issues of Finance, Adaptation, Loss and Damage, Gender and Article 6. (“Article 6 is a key part of the Paris Agreement. It allows Parties to voluntarily cooperate to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions, providing for international transfers of mitigation outcomes, a new mechanism for mitigation and sustainable development, and non-market approaches.” From article, “Decoding article 6”).

So these morning strategy sessions offer some glimpse of what meetings are underway which various members of the ecumenical delegates may choose to monitor and report back on. At this point, with drafts of position papers circulating, there still may be some opportunity to exert influence.

One of the ways an un-official group like ACT Alliance seeks to influence the process is through press releases with commentary about these drafts as well as something called “stunts”. A stunt is an short (30 minutes) sketch or dramatic enactment performed in the corridor of the facility primarily to illustrate a particular point related to some policy position or concern of the group in a way that is somewhat “photogenic”. These stunts are scheduled and approved by the U.N. so they must abide by certain rules such as not mentioning the name of specific countries. Today we did a stunt (see photos) about the issue of finances for assisting poor nations with the costs of what is called “loss and damage” due to climate change events like severe storms, droughts, fires, etc. Burkhard and I were given signs to hang around our necks proclaiming “rich nations” as well as bowler hats to give us a kind of “monopoly game” capitalist costume. We had a wine bottle with “oil” written on it and another large burlap bag with the word “coal” on it. We also had some fake coal to play with and a large fake check with “useless promises” and “blah, blah, blah” written on it. You get the idea. Then we stood and pretended not to want to hear as different members of our group read out stories of tragic circumstances of real people in poor countries who have suffered various situations resulting from climate change. The press seemed to like it. But we’ll see if it gets any traction.

Tax the Rich

I attended an excellent panel presentation organized by the World Council of Churches office on the topic of tax reform for funding loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation. They discussed the new agreement to set an international base of 15% corporate tax rate as a hedge against international companies seeking out tax haven countries. We learned that the top 1% of wealthy people are responsible for 50% of CO2 emissions and that the bottom 50% of income level is responsible for only 7%.

An Anglican theologian, Dr. Peniel Rajkumar gave a powerful first person presentation of the story of Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from scripture. He described the Roman economic model within which he operated and his “come to Jesus” moment in which he realized how wrong his actions had been. His offering of four-fold reparations was the exact amount demanded in Old Testament law for when a sheep is stolen. This idea that taxation of the poor can be viewed as theft, is very biblical. The fact that it is after this expression of a willingness to pay reparations that Jesus pronounces “salvation has entered this house”, gave rise to another speaker saying that if we care about the souls of the top one percent, we will tax them more heavily. Dr. Rajkumar ended with a Chinese adage that says: “If we do not change our direction, we will end up were we are heading.”

I also attended a presentation by the All Africa Counsel of Churches on various elements of that body’s paper developed over a three day consultation held in Addis Ababa last year. They expressed a deep desire that the COP Secretariat make every effort to restore faith in the COP process after 26 years of seeming little progress on the issues it is designed to address, there is a deep skepticism among people in Africa about its utility.

A Kenyan speaker, Patricia Congo, told of her own efforts in the area of ecological education. She said that without proper ecological education, the people will be like a bird without feathers, they will always crawl and never fly.


Time for some rest before we get up and do it again.