Statement from the Archbishop of Cape Town on COP26

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The next 12 days will be critical to life as we know it on the planet, and especially for Africa.

In Glasgow, governments which have signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change hold the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the convention (COP26) to decide how to prevent climate  catastrophe.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has described the climate crisis as “code red for humanity”. 

The current aim is to reduce carbon emissions – from coal, petroleum and natural gas – to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the temperatures seen before the industrial age. To achieve this, by 2030 global emissions must be halved, and by 2050 we must reach “net-zero”, meaning the greenhouse gas we produce should be no more than that removed from the atmosphere.

But Mr Guterres warns that despite action already taken, we are headed for a “catastrophic” global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius.

The impact of the crisis is particularly serious for Africa. Scientists of the World Meteorological Organization say that the continent is warming, and sea levels along South Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts are rising, more rapidly than the global average.

Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture with the African Union Commission, says that if there is no change, by 2030 up to 118 million extremely poor Africans (those living on less than U.S.$1.90 a day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat.

Scientists at the University of Cape Town forecast that rainfall in eight African countries they have studied will decrease by well over 20mm in the driest months, and by more than 100mm per year in the worst hit nations.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the specialised United Nations agency which works to improve food security, says this will have a devastating impact on yields of staple and cash crops grown by small-scale farmers.

It explains: “This could have a catastrophic impact on poverty and food availability unless there is an urgent injection of funding to help vulnerable farmers adapt how and what they farm.”

IFAD adds that developing countries need between $70 billion and $100 billion a year to be able to adapt, and by 2030 they will need between $140 to $300 billion. But at present the international community is providing only $22 billion a year.

So we face a Kairos moment – a moment of truth, a critical turning point – in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe.

Accordingly, I invite all people of faith to pray for COP26 on each day of the talks until November 12:  

Lord God,

We give thanks for the world in which you have placed us

For the beauty which surrounds us

And for the natural resources you provide which sustain us

We pray for all those gathered in Glasgow for COP26

We pray for the heads of state and government representatives

We pray for the negotiators and scientists

We pray for the climate activists 

That all will unite in a common effort to avert climate catastrophe

We also pray for those in fossil fuel industries whose livelihoods are at stake

And for the rapid development of renewable energy sources which will create new jobs 

Lord God,

We ask you to move the hearts of leaders of the industrialised nations which produce most carbon emissions

That they will hear the cries of developing nations, which suffer the worst effects of climate change

And that COP29 will generate the resources needed to help poor nations adapt to meet the crisis

In your name we pray.  Amen