Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Home | Contact us | Search
Our mission | MOGC publications | Staff members | Our partners | Contact us
Africa | Asia | Middle East | Latin America | United Nations |
War is not the answer | Arms control/proliferation | U.S. military programs/policies | Security | Alternatives to violence
Maryknoll Land Ethic Process | Climate change | GMOs | Water | U.S. energy policy | Earth Charter |
Trade/Investment | Foreign debt | Millennium Devel. Goals | Corporate accountability | Int'l financial institutions | Work | Economic alternatives
Indigenous peoples | Migrants | Children | Women | People with HIV/AIDS
Educational resources | Contact policymakers | Links | MOGC publications |
Subscribe | NewsNotes archive

Climate change: Inspirations, disappointments
NewsNotes, January-February 2010

MOGC staff members Sr. Ann Braudis, co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, and Kathy McNeely, coordinator of the MOGC’s Faith-Economy-Ecology program, at­tended the UN conference on climate change, held in Denmark in early December 2009. The follow­ing article is a reflection by Sr. Ann; Kathy’s article, which focuses more on the economic dimensions of this challenge, is here.

For several months prior to the conference, the UN NGO Committee on Sustainable Development focused almost exclusively on climate change, using a widely circulated discussion paper. Through the resulting broad conversation on climate change is­sues, a one page Summary of Recommendations to Governments was drafted. The summary was clear in its moral foundation and rich in expressing the complex interwoven nature of the climate change crisis. In retrospect, the NGO response to this proj­ect gave an indication of the widespread concern of civil society for the crisis gradually enveloping the globe and dramatically experienced at this time by poor, “developing” countries lying in the range of the most severe changes in weather patterns. Partici­pating in the conference affirmed these indications.

Thousands of NGOs and other representatives of civil society attended the summit. Arriving in Co­penhagen in the dead of winter, with little light and much cold, one could not help but be impressed as, day after day, floods of people made their way to that far corner of the earth to attend the conference.

Regardless of where people came from, with few exceptions, they held in common one message; we are all citizens of one planet with a moral re­sponsibility to make decisions that secure planetary sustainability for future generations. This requires significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions, pro­tecting the integrity of the earth’s forests, and shar­ing funds, technology and knowledge with those in need and most threatened by the effects of climate change. Lastly, it is necessary to keep the global temperature below an increase of 2º Celsius. FAB became the byword, standing for a Fair, Ambitious and Binding treaty.

However, as the conference progressed, it be­came evident that it would be impossible for gov­ernments to finalize a binding treaty in Copenhagen. While this was disappointing, it was inspiring to hear Nobel peace prize recipient Wangari Maathai of Kenya encouraging civil society to remember what it had achieved in the past and to renew its commitment to bring about a just and binding treaty as soon as possible. Vandana Shiva of India cited the strength of indigenous farmers in their determina­tion to protect life in its myriad and interconnecting manifestations and to stand firm before the destruc­tive forces of mechanization and fragmentation.

Speaking of economics, Penn State professor and ethicist Donald Brown stated clearly that it is morally unacceptable to choose to preserve the eco­nomic well-being of any nation over the well-being of others and the planet’s sustainability. In view of the position of small island states, Dr. Brown’s words were heavily weighted. Representatives from Cape Verde said, “We demand to survive. We demand a commitment to our survival. If we disappear we will not disappear alone; we will simply precede you in disappearing.”

The Intergovernmental Panel of Scientists was enthusiastically supported by the overflowing crowd attending their presentation. Roaring applause showed agreement in accepting the findings of the panel as the foundation for any climate change agreement. Lastly, the youth were unrelenting in posing the question, “Where will you be in 2050?”

In the end, true to predictions, government ne­gotiators were unable to achieve a binding treaty. Rather, they arrived at a general agreement to re­duce emissions according to national standards; to allow for external monitoring where required; and to provide aid to poor countries ($100 billion a year starting in 2020 and $30 billion for the next three years). To bring the pact to the point of being a legally binding treaty will require a great deal of further work. Civil society will have to double its vigilance to ensure that this happens.

In spite of disappointments it is clear that there is a global movement that shows a new level of consciousness with its inherent responsibility for the well-being of the whole planet. In a letter to the Bolivian Mission at the conference, theologian and philosopher Leonardo Boff captured this point: “A new time begins, the biocivilization, in which the Earth and humanity recognize their mutual belong­ing, their common origin and common destiny.”

About us | Privacy Policy | Legal  |  Contact us
© 2010 Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns