As COP28 concludes, WCC general secretary urges: “we, as people of faith, must continue to nurture hope”

Though COP28 failed to produce a credible plan to phase out fossil fuels, there is still reason for hope that the world can move toward climate justice, said World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay as COP28 concluded.

“Though the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund was secured early on at the start of the global climate conference, the financial pledges currently on the table can only be described as measly, falling far short of what is needed to respond to the devastating impacts of climate change in poor, climate-vulnerable nations,” said Pillay. “These let-downs demonstrate a dearth of solidarity that, ultimately, harms us all, both poor and wealthy nations.”

He reflected that, at COP28, we saw the interests of the billion-dollar fossil fuel industry prevail over scientific findings and ethical appeals. “The science bears repeating: In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent the most catastrophic climactic effects, greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and fall sharply thereafter; and this means absolutely no new fossil fuel extraction,” Pillay said. “By blocking an agreement to forge a timely global transition away from fossil fuels to economies founded on already available and increasingly affordable renewable sources of energy, a handful of governments have held hostage the health, wellbeing, and future of entire communities and the planet. This is morally reprehensible.”

With COP28, there is much to lament, Pillay acknowledged. “And yet, somehow, despite the grim science and frustrating political realities, there is also much from which to draw hope,” he said. “COP28 saw developing countries like Colombia leading the way in endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Other countries such as the Netherlands agreed to cut subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. 

“These are successes to be celebrated and followed through,” he said. “Notably, faith voices have strongly campaigned for these critical initiatives.”

Pillay also spoke of how COP28 united scientists, labour unionists, organisations representing farmers, women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples, and communities of faith. 

“Reaping the fruits of intentional dialogue and trust-building over the years, ecumenical, interfaith, and civil society cooperation was significantly strengthened at COP28,” he said. “With the conclusion of COP28, we, as people of faith, must continue to nurture a hope that demands us to choose life over death.”

WCC special page on COP28

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