Cop26 has started today, but I'm still sitting in my home in Petershagen (near Berlin/Germany). It's Halloween night and "trick-or-treaters" are ringing my door bell from time to time.
According to my travel plans I will be in Glasgow between Nov 3 and Nov 12. That is I have to chair a county council committee meeting here in a neighboring town on Nov 2. One of the important topics is that more and more mainly Afghan or Iraqi refugees are crossing the nearby boarder from Poland into our border region these days (after they have crossed the border from Belarus into Poland before). Together with civil society groups we have worked on a welcoming attitude and programs since at least 2015, but there are other people in my region who respond differently and even local authorities sometimes have a different attitude.
I'm always thinking of the different reasons that cause families to make their hard decision to leave home and that climate hazards will increasingly be among those reasons.
During the last few days I have tried to get COP26 focused, searched for and scanned through different information sources about COP26 and related issues. (e.g. German and English newspapers, books, studies and podcasts). Let me recommend the podcast “Outrage & Optimism” and the podcasts of the Guardian.
There are different sources of the conference that give us a (sometimes confusing) spectrum of information, which ranges from registering, reserving tickets for events or online meetings, or Covid 19 logistics, to different agendas of the negotiations (Blue Zone) and of side events (Green Zone).
In this situation of information overflow it’s good to get an overview from ecumenical partners one can hold on to. Fred has already reported about a very helpful zoom briefing of the ACT alliance and Lutheran World Federation and about their very strategic coordination for our relatively large ecumenical group. There will be daily briefings and I’m sure that’s helpful.
Neddy helped us to be invited into different interfaith WhatsApp groups, which bring a variety of flavors to my attention and a lot of hints about initiatives and meetings to get in touch with while in Glasgow (or online).
I compare this with my one and only COP experience from Katowice/PL (COP24 in 2018) when I had only two large agenda printouts and in many cases just walked in and met ecumenical partners only occasionally.
On October 28 I participated in a online webinar on "Fossil fuel divestment and just transition for all" organized by Laudato Si’ Movement, Operation Noah, World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith.
First we learned about the fossil fuel divestment shift in the Scottish catholic bishops' conference announced recently. Another strong statement came from an Anglican Church leader from Southern Africa who said “this is Africas’ Kairos” with companies investing in the Okavango basin in Namibia for oil eploitation and talked about huge gas fields discovered in northern Mozambique. The Church of Southern Africa (Green Anglicans) is calling for an immediate end to fossil fuel exploration in Africa and Matthew 6.21 was quoted by someone: “For where your treasure (your investment) is, there your heart will be also.”
The good news was delivered by a scientist from a climate finance institute (stand.earth) who reported that the divestment pledges from businesses, cities, towns, churches, individuals etc. have skyrocketed since Paris COP21, now reach $ 39.88 Trillion which is larger than investments of US and China combined.
I was impressed by an interfaith prayer this afternoon in Glasgow with so many faith traditions involved, which I was able to witness online and I was sad not to be present when the pilgrims arrived. I remember the German group who I had accompanied in Berlin in 2018 and was among those welcoming them when they arrived in Katowice at COP24. I admire them! They are such a blessing!
Since this is my first of a planned series of blogs I think I should briefly introduce myself:
I’m grateful and honored to be a COP 26 observer on behalf of Presbyterians for Earth Care together with my Presbyterian colleagues Neddy, Bill and Fred. In my last 20+ years before retirement (which was in the fall 2020) I was working with Presbyterian Church USA World Mission, first to establish a particular community development program with a foundation in Armenia and in the Middle East and later as regional liaison with Rroma people and partners in Central and Western Europe focusing on programs for human rights, anti-racism, and refugee protection and integration.
I‘m married and my wife and I live near Berlin/Germany are proud parents and grandparents of two adult daughters and four grand kids for which I wish they can live in a world where justice, peace and solidarity reign and nature is restored.
I was born and grew up in East Germany, was educated as an engineer in the 70s and tried to be a critical engineer ever since.
In the late 1970s and 80s I was part of the East German peace movement. One of the studies I wrote in a church and society group was on gradually and mutually accelerated unilateral disarmament. One of my few visits to the UK was a roughly year before the wall came down. In 1988 I was invited by CND to put – among other Eastern Europeans - a face on the targets of British nukes.
I consider the ecumenical movement „Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation“ - which had been important during the last days of East Germany but much underestimated - as crucial for my life.
Since 1989 I’m working as a member of the German Green party, in local and regional councils focusing on social and ecological projects, started a job dealing with military conversion. That was in the early 1990s, during the phase of the Russian troop withdrawal and the end of the national East German army. For a few years in the early 90s I was elected mayor of my small town near Berlin - in a time when German unification had changed the social economic and political landscape drastically.
During the mid and late 90s I managed a project to implement a “Local Agenda 21” funded by the German environmental agency and the churches for a sustainable future in district in Berlin Germany by networking between civil society, church communities, and local authorities.