MAGAZINE: A Wake Up Call?

MAGAZINE: A Wake Up Call?

Letter from a Member of the Ministry Team. Iffley Parish Magazine, December 2021.

As the delegates were gathering for COP26 in November, Graham Low wrote of the need for fundamental change in human behaviour and of metanoia in relation to the climate crisis. Whilst we can agree that ultimately this is what is required, the short-term need is simple and practical.

Change can begin small scale. Bit by bit we can begin to see how changes can be incorporated into our daily lives, and become a new normal in our busy routines. As we undertake each action we can see it is a common-sense step along a path which can lead in many directions or stop if we choose. There is no threat here. We are simply exploring what it would be like to do something differently.

What we must not do is to lose sight of the bigger picture. The efforts we make, many of them considerable, to move towards vegetarian and vegan diets, to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for transport and home heating and so on, remain crucial to our own personal integrity and our own sense of purpose. But in the larger scale they have small impact, one voice only where many voices are needed.

How are we to bridge this gap between the small scale of our own individual efforts and the mass action that is the fundamental challenge and requirement of this climate crisis? We have to begin to look in new directions for allies and may have to cooperate with people who do not necessarily see the world from our perspective.

What do we make of COP26 now? Now the Glasgow conference has come to an end.

Each day, COP26 has continued to highlight the need for mass pressure for change. Overall, as one headline put it, we’re still on a superhighway past 2°C. (That, as you know, refers to the undertaking at the Paris Treaty in 2015 to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that level the impacts of climate change – as we are already seeing- grow ever more damaging and serious.) That is a reality and it suggests the conference was a failure. The truth is quite far from that dismal conclusion.

Of course, it is not surprising that judgements on the success of the conference are varied. They range from one extreme to another and every point of view in between. For the government it was a roaring success. To Greta Thunberg it was all just Blah Blah Blah.

We can afford to take a more sober view. Yes, there were key players who would not subscribe to important decisions for example on the phasing out of fossil fuels, on deforestation or methane reduction. But we have to look more widely. COP26 is a marker of significant changes in public opinion internationally and in the balance of arguments between poorer nations and major carbon producers. The COP26 outcomes may disappoint campaigners but they are part of a shift in which each one of us has agency.

Will Hutton recently pointed to a growing conviction of voters and consumers across the globe that climate crisis is real and that this is forcing change. Let’s remember the 130 countries, including the US, China and Australia which are making commitments of one kind or another, to net-zero carbon emissions. Although the final outcomes of COP26 are unclear there is now a momentum to “keep 1.5 alive”

The most vulnerable and poorest nations, finding a more powerful voice, have taken up the task of holding the major powers to account. Watch out for the Alliance of Small States and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. Will they succeed in securing an annual accounting on promises made at COP26? Or will they be overpowered by those who find this accountability irksome?

We can take heart from these underlying trends, lend our own small-scale support to these large-scale movements for change and continue to pray that small and large-scale commitments to action will turn the tide of this climate crisis.

Tom Leach

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