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Was Glasgow left on fire or full of smoke? Jesuit Missions reflects on COP26.

  • 18 November 2021
Zoë Carruthers, Communications and Campaigns Officer, explores the highs and lows of the two-week climate change conference.

The Jesuit Missions team was gearing up for COP26 for quite some time. From awareness raising to visiting 10 Downing Street with our COP26 petition, we were keen to let the politicians know our stance on climate change. That is, to take more action to minimise it.

For Jesuit Missions, ecology has always been an integral part of supporting communities overseas. Agricultural projects, reforestation programmes and emergency relief after natural disasters; all of these examples are work we support which is directly impacted by climate change. If that wasn’t a good enough reason to be engaged at COP26, we are, of course, motivated by the words in Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato Si’.

He says, “Today, however, we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

So, with heads full of plans and hearts full of expectation, a bunch of our team clambered on the (delayed) train to Glasgow. We had various team members dedicating themselves to different areas. Director, Paul Chitnis attended the COP26 delegates area with International Programmes Officer, Lucy Gillingham. They were able to give live updates and meet with other faith-based organisations that had united goals.

Paul and Lucy were able to witness first-hand the agreements made by world leaders throughout the conference. These agreements included India’s announcement to be net-zero by 2070, ending deforestation by 2030 and reducing Methane emissions by 30% from 2020.

The agreements all seem like ground-breaking steps in the right direction. Yet, there are questions about the credibility of these agreements. Paul says, “Too many decisions have been kicked down the road to future years and successor COPs. Put simply, the political will has been lacking.” However, the spiritual will was not lacking in Glasgow…

Colm Fahy, an intern at Jesuit Missions was leading the spiritual aspect of our work at COP26. He led the COP26 pilgrimage from Edinburgh to Glasgow. In total, 28 pilgrims took part. The pilgrims were our spark of joy and hope during the lack-lustre negotiations.

Our pilgrims reflected on the climate crisis while walking in the rain, prayed for those affected by climate change when marching in the sunshine. They sang spontaneous hymns to God, praising him for creation. The pilgrims’ faith in God has helped us look to a higher place for hope rather than trying to find it in the empty words of world leaders.

The Jesuit Missions team and the pilgrims came together on Saturday 6 November, between week one and week two of the conferences. Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, Fr Damian Howard SJ spoke right before the pilgrims joined the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice March. He said, “Even the climate crisis is in some deep, mysterious way a gift… God sometimes creates gifts that we find difficult or even painful, and sometimes those gifts are a way for God’s glory to shine through our human weakness. Let’s not be too worried about the things that are going wrong, because we trust, we hope that this difficult gift will be a way God shines through our human weakness.”

It would be wrong to say we are happy with the outcomes of COP26, however, we choose to continue hoping and advocating for the protection of our Common Home.

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