I’ve been awake for 24 hours. After trans-Atlantic planes, cross-country trains, and more than a few automobiles, I’ve made it to Bonn, Germany for the annual climate gathering of the world, this year termed COP 23.
You may remember COP 21 in Paris two years ago, which resulted in the historic Paris Agreement, in which virtually every nation on earth agreed on a common way forward to address the threat of climate change.
I was in Paris for those meetings, too. Those were heady days, filled with face-to-faces with high-level State Department officials, speeches from world leaders committing themselves and their nations to climate action, and daily rumors of fresh breakthroughs in negotiations.
But more than anything else, they were days that were filled with hope.
Today, we find ourselves in a very different reality. Gone are the thundering cheers that greeted the final gavel of COP 21, signaling the birth of the Paris Agreement and ostensibly of a bright future of global collaboration toward climate action. In their place is uneasy silence, occasioned by the looming elephant casting its shadow over this year’s COP gathering.
This is the first year that the world will gather to try to hammer out the details for implementing the Paris Agreement since the world’s second largest emitter, and historical emissions champion, walked away from the rest of the global community. The world is watching and wondering what U.S. disengagement will mean for the process of moving this important process forward.
But this inauspicious designation is not the only reason that COP 23 is a COP of firsts. There is another first at this year's gathering. For the first time, COP 23 is presided over by a Pacific Island nation: Fiji. And I don't think these two “firsts” are incidental. Indeed, I find them to be deeply connected. At precisely the moment that the world’s most powerful nation turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to those being impacted by its actions, vulnerable people are standing up and moving the rest of the world forward.
I believe that history will remember where the church stood in this moment: whether in vocal support of vulnerable people who are leading the way, or in silent agreement with those who turn their backs on them. And if history won’t, God certainly will.
So I’m here at COP 23, yawning and going on hour 25. I’m joining with other Christian leaders from the U.S. and around the world to say with a unified voice that we hear our global brothers and sisters and that we believe them when they tell us that climate change is threatening their very lives. The steering committee and I want Y.E.C.A. to be on the right side of history on this one; to be on the right side of the gospel on this one. And we want to bring your voices to this conference.
So what do you say? Will you join me?
National Organizer and Spokesperson