COP26 or Cop Out!

In November, tens of thousands of delegates and activists arrived in Glasgow from all over the world for COP26. David Attenborough had described this as ‘the last best chance’ to tackle global warming, an opportunity to check on pledges made from the previous COP in Paris and to make fresh commitments. 

The verdict on progress wasn’t great, global emissions of greenhouse gases had continued to rise and promises from richer countries to help the most vulnerable had not been kept. 

Western Christians have lagged behind in caring for creation. Too often arguing about how God created the world rather than looking after it. Too often seeing the world as something to be escaped from rather than treasured. Too often in denial about how their lifestyles have fuelled an ecological crisis that threatens billions of the world’s most vulnerable people and much of the non-human creation. 

However there has been a growing understanding that creation care is not an optional extra but an integral part of Christian mission and this was reflected in a strong Christian presence at COP26. Aid agencies such as CAFOD and Christian Aid were present along with groups such as A Rocha, demonstrating that care for people and planet are inextricably linked. 

Simon looking very wet, sporting an eco-warrior beard (that has since disappeared on the grounds that he thinks it makes him look as old as Methuselah’s twin brother) 

On 6 November, along with 100,000 others, I took part in the Day of Action to press decision makers to take action. Tearfund had organised a prayer meeting beforehand. Ruth Valerio (author of L is for Lifestyle and Saying Yes to Life) reflected on why we were joining in the march, partners from across the globe shared their experiences and Nigel Harris (Tearfund’s CEO) led us in prayer, before we set off into the Glasgow weather which, whilst not reminding us of global warming, certainly reminded us of increased precipitation! 

Throughout COP26 Christian groups prayed and protested and praised. Tearfund hosted a worship event on the penultimate evening of the conference where Resound showcased new songs about caring for creation. John Stott once wrote: ‘Pretty songs…don’t prove anything. It’s only in daily life that you prove that obedience, whether or not you love Jesus.’

At that event Andy Adkins of A Rocha said no matter what decisions were finalised the calling of Christians would remain the same, to work for climate justice.  

Many activists have been disappointed by the subsequent agreement and it has been said that the hope to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees or below is not exactly dead but is nonetheless on life support. 

The next couple of years will be crucial in making sure that governments, including our own, take action to tackle climate change and that promises of financial aid to vulnerable nations are kept. 

As Christians let us play our part, to witness in our own lifestyle and in our words, to the God who loves the world he declared good, and let us not grow weary in loving our neighbours and fellow creatures who are most at risk from a changing climate.