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Ecojesuit at COP28 Sharing Experiences

Faith leaders arriving at the Faith Pavilion (photo credit: Pedro Walpole SJ)

Preparations for Ecojesuit planning start early in 2023 from the local level reporting and sharing as to the different experiences and discernment within each Conference as to the focus and was shared with the global GIAN Ecology, Ecojesuit. From listening to the Conference experience and dynamic a broader agenda was discerned for presentation at the annual meeting and also a review of Ecojesuit activities and engagements of the past year.

This year the focus developed around food and water vulnerability as the key area and hopefully this can be sustained for a number of years. While the local activities are for Provinces and Conferences to report and exchange on, the global network coordination connects with global agendas and platforms on the focused topic as a process of global networking.

This year the core focus has been to follow the joint work on agriculture and climate action of Sharm El Sheikh (COP27) now starting to develop a mechanism for implementation during COP28. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Foods Systems Summit (FSS) have taken a back seat. There is a specific ECOJESUIT Website for COP engagements  and the outcomes form part of the ongoing discussions and efforts during the year to strengthen stronger connections and advocacy at our own nation level actions. 

Producing an Ecojesuit Statement (for COP26 and 28) has been a process that sought to network across apostolates and has brought about further integration of the work in the different Conferences and with Higher Education Apostolate. While people’s access is through multiple organizations (not always Jesuit UN registered institutions) with specific responsibilities while at the COP there is a networking during the event and a broadening of collaboration of the Jesuit network serving other committed organizations as well as Church presence. The statement shares the five themes of engagement.

A further focus and need for deeper reflection and conversion is the DSS, both because UAP4 shows the least action and there are questions of insertion. “In practically all the Provinces/Regions it is recognized that we have not found the way forward or changed our life-mission to collaborate in the care of our Common Home in a new and effective manner.” (DSS.94). “How can we reconcile the life of insertion and the standard requirements of religious, personal and community life? (DSS.77). There is a need for significant reflection to understand how Ecojesuit could contribute to a deeper experience of conversion and more effective action.

The course-correcting adaptation and mitigation deficiencies (theme 5 of the Statement) is best first to mention as it has been a key opening point of COP28. The statements delivered by Heads of State during the World Climate Action Summit sought to bridge these deficiencies. Notable statements include Brazil President’s commitment to halt deforestation in the Amazon by 2030, yet Brazil is the no.2 producer of soybean, beef, and poultry. Bolivia Vice President delivered a strong statement on the plights of the Indigenous and criticized developed countries for climate inaction. Global Stocktaking process seeks to deliver ambitious and realistic action. In the negotiations, parties agreed to double up adaptation finance.

Loss and damage, and climate finance (Themes 2 and 4) on the first day of COP the landmark agreement on operationalizing the Loss and Damage fund was reached. Countries continue pledging contributions now amounting to a total of over USD 600 million, This is a small sum considering that USD 400 billion annually is needed to address loss and damage needs by 2030 (US committed USD 17 million, Japan USD 10 million).

World Bank is the intermediary of the fund: We need to call for the transformation of financial architectures as funding institutions disburse the funds through loans. This is a justice issue as the fund needs to be directly accessed by vulnerable communities. Advancements are being made on the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage which has not operationalized since COP25 in 2019. The network’s purpose is to provide technical assistance. Parties finally agreed on a host: UNDRR and UNOPS. On climate finance, Guterres strongly urged developed countries to commit to doubling up climate finance by USD 40 billion annually by 2025 to bridge the USD 4.3 trillion gap by 2030. The New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance will be negotiated and agreed at COP29 in 2024.

On the energy transition and Fossil-Fuel non-proliferation treaty (Theme 1). During the WCAS, this was endorsed by several Heads of States, but unlikely this will be taken up in the negotiations. US pledged to slash 80% of methane emissions by 2030; cutting methane in the fossil fuel industries will probably be one of the greater commitments coming out of this COP. In all 118 countries have committed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. Launched the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Chapter (OGDC), a voluntary pledge of over 50 companies to speed up climate action and slash methane emissions by 2030, yet legal agreements are what is needed. 22 countries have signed on and launched the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy by 2050 that “recognizes the Key Role of Nuclear Energy in Keeping Within Reach the Goal of Limiting Temperature Rise to 1.5 Degrees Celsius”.

On food security and climate action (Theme 3) over 130 countries have signed on the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action that signifies their commitment to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025. Again this is a statement not a mechanism implementing actual change. Negotiations on the implementation mechanisms have reached a stalemate. Growing concern over increased presence of industrial agriculture lobbyists/giants at COP28.

Rigobert Minani SJ who is representing the Ecclesial Network of the Congo Basin (REBAC) and the Ecclesial Networks Alliance (ENA) shared his engagements on spreading the word on Laudate Deum by handing out printed copies to COP28 participants. He emphasized what Pope Francis said about multilateralism, but how to actualize this is the challenge. The agreements and declarations are steps forward, but need to be met with cautious hope and skepticism as reality is completely different.

Fossil fuel phaseout is a grave concern, as there are currently 14 recorded fossil fuel exploration projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). DRC has been trying to sign an agreement with the World Bank, yet the process has stalled for a year. Vulnerable communities do not have the capacity to maneuver bureaucracy. Rigobert is accompanying a delegation from the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). There have been difficulties in coordinating with the Holy See.

Leonard Chiti SJ who is representing the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) shared additional concerns on the voluntary nature of the Loss and Damage fund. LDF mechanisms need to be simple to ensure that vulnerable communities are able to access directly. Another key concern is the process and timeline of fund disbursement, as it will take a year for the fund to be operational. A majority of the members of the Loss and Damage fund are represented by the Global North.

Charles Chilufya SJ who is representing the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA), has shared key developments in COP and the African voice through the JENA newsletter on understanding the Loss and Damage fund. “Effective measures to address loss and damage are not just necessary; they’re critical for survival​”. Charles also elaborated on Arrica’s imperatives in the GST. “The synthesis report of the GST underscores not only the global lapses in achieving climate goals but also brings to light the distinct challenges that Africa faces.

In a call for reform, African leaders are advocating for a recalibration of global climate policies. They demand a framework that is both inclusive and equitable, one that is particularly sensitive to the financing needs for adaptation and critically, to the concept of loss and damage”. He concluded by stating that Africa’s voice is a powerful reminder of the resilience and determination of those facing the harshest realities of climate change. The inclusion of loss and damage in the GST discussions is a significant step towards ensuring that climate justice is not just an ideal, but an achievable reality.”

Colm Fahy from the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) who is also a member of the Ecojesuit virtual delegation noted that all the declarations and agreements being launched are not legally binding. Agreements will take years to get to the negotiation level. Most of these statements are also coming from the Global South, there needs to be a major crackdown in the Global North.

John Kennedy Savarimuthu SJ, another member of the Ecojesuit virtual delegation is not too optimistic about the recent developments, but appreciated the daily communications Ecojesuit has been sharing. A discussion ensued as to what extent can civil society actually influence the negotiations. Observers (which are mainly NGOs) can make interventions in the negotiations, but only when invited by the facilitators. NGOs can organize and lobby as a collective, especially at the country-level. The Holy See delegation also held a meeting with Catholic Actors to seek inputs on the negotiation document.

Filipe Martins from JESC shared about ongoing climate marches in Europe with different generations participating. On 9 March, a climate march will be held on 9 March on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.

Closing thoughts included:

  • Discussions on food systems and climate action (agroecology) will become evident in the second week
  • Methane emission slashing is a possible key achievement of COP28, but this is nowhere near enough
  • The Faith Pavilion seeks to be a space for dialogue, faith, and encounter, and is the first of its kind. Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the Muslim Council of Elders recently inaugurated and visited the pavilion
  • With the forthcoming outcomes of COP, how can we engage with these outcomes locally, nationally, and in the Jesuit Conferences?

Ecojesuit shares other key matters worth reading as reported by other media:

We continue to pray for our own conversion and that of the world to a greater care for our common home seeking healing and alternative models of life. We need to seek greater coherence in our own life as we accompany the poor and the youth in finding new hope and vision of the mission in which we are invited to share.

A faith actors gathering led by the Interfaith Liaison Committee, a Special Group under the UNFCCC that supports the informal gathering of faith-based organisations (FBOs) actively engaged at the UNFCCC.

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