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The first-ever Faith Pavilion will be introduced at COP28 in Dubai. The Ecojesuit network’s statement on COP28 cites a commitment to a
“South-North climate justice advocacy”.


By David McMahon, Communications Manager, Society of Jesus in Australia

COP28 is the abbreviated form of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), or Conference of the Parties. The UN Climate Change Conferences are the world’s peak decision-making body on climate issues and acknowledged as one of the largest international meetings in the world. Dubai, the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates, will host COP28 from 30 November to 12 December this year.

One of the most significant aspects of COP28 UAE will be the first Global Stocktake, when global delegates will take stock of progress made since the 2015 Paris Agreement. This was a legally binding international treaty on climate change, adopted by 196 signatories at COP21 in the French capital on 12 December that year. It came into effect 11 months later, on 4 November 2016.

The major goal of the Paris Agreement was to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

In Dubai this month, the Global Stocktake will assess the progress made since the Paris Agreement took effect. The aim of this stocktake is to assess various efforts on climate action, including measures that need to be put in place to bridge the gaps in progress.

For the first time at a COP summit, a Faith Pavilion will be included. This will host panels that include religious figures, scientists and political leaders, with the intention of encouraging intergenerational dialogue involving young faith leaders and indigenous representatives.

There will be another first as well. Pope Francis announced on 1 November that he will attend COP28 – the first time a pontiff has attended the UN environmental meeting since they began in 1995.

On 11 October this year, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-Designate of COP28, met Pope Francis to discuss the crucial role of faith leaders in advancing the climate agenda at COP28. As explained on the COP28 website, “the COP28 Presidency has collaborated with the Vatican, The Muslim Council of Elders, and The United Nations Environment Program to ensure inclusivity in the COP process by integrating faith organisations into climate discussions. Inclusivity is a core pillar of the COP28 Presidency and it aims to provide a platform where all voices are heard, including faith organisations, especially those focused on assisting vulnerable communities affected by loss and damage.”

Integral to this over-arching process is the Ecojesuit body, which gets its hybrid name from the words “ecology” and “Jesuit”. It is a network of Jesuits and their partners around the world who share in the critical work of reconciliation and responding to ecological concerns. Their website includes a twice-monthly web-based newsletter of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) on Ecology with editorial and technical assistance from the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research institution in the Philippines.

Fr Pedro Walpole SJ. Photo courtesy of Jesuits Global.

The Ecojesuit statement on COP28 that was released yesterday cites a commitment to a “South-North climate justice advocacy”. Among the statement’s signatories is Fr Quyen Vu, Provincial of The Society of Jesus in Australia. Highlights of the statement are:

“The climate crisis can no longer be denied. Its most severe effects are felt in the Global South where extreme rainfall events cause erosion and flooding, while sea level rise and coral bleaching affect archipelagos in Asia and the large ocean states. Small-scale producers are unable to adapt their agriculture and fisheries, exacerbating food and water vulnerabilities of communities in the margins.

“With all its limitations, the UNFCCC COP is still an important global body where the Global South can confront the Global North for its inaction. UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that ‘the era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders, particularly G20 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions, must step up for climate action and climate justice.

“Pope Francis in his latest exhortation Laudate Deum, calls for those joining COP28 to be ‘strategists capable of considering the common good and the future of their children, more than the short-term interests of certain countries or businesses” (LD 60).

“The Holy Father reminds all people of faith of our shared responsibility to care for creation. ‘I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful, because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values” (LD 69).

“Ecojesuit as the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network on Ecology heeds this call through our shared mission on social and ecological justice. We uphold tough hope and deepened faith as valid forms of participation in global spaces. It is through faith that our commitment is strengthened in working towards an integral ecology-way of living while standing alongside the most vulnerable.”