COP15 – Dec 12,2009 – Tuvalu and Climate Action Day

I was most impacted today by an intervention of the delegate from Tuvalu during today’s first plenary session. It can be viewed on the COP15 website (from 0:02:53 to 0:09:30). It was a passionate and emotional intervention, but at the same time it was very clear: the situation is very serious and our survival is at stake, but an answer depends upon us all, and more particularly upon decisions made in the US Senate. This insistence on the seriousness and urgency of the climate change crisis, in which life and death are at stake, touches me deeply. Moreover, Tuvalu’s delegate admitted, and he had tears in his eyes when he said it, that he got up this morning weeping – this is a crisis that moves us profoundly, touches our guts and, therefore, can bring the best, the most vulnerable, but also the worst and the most aggressive in us to the surface. These inner movements have become part of the debate. To me this indicates that the climate change crisis is, at its core, a process of decision making that requires not only necessary and sound science, economics and politics, but also discernment at the level of what we deeply want and what deeply fits us as human beings sharing a planet, and even better: as a planet that has given in itself through a long evolution the capacity to discern and decide.

CAN (Climate Action Network) is a network of NGOs involved in climate change work and an important non-party actor in COP15. Amongst COP15 webcasts, one finds also the daily CAN International Press Conference. They are worthwhile following, as they present us with the evolution of the conversations, consultations and diplomatic efforts. They also offer a kind of benchmark program on what to work towards for the negotiations in COP15. In today’s press conference, they stressed the importance of “Global Climate Action Day”, held all over the world. These events show a worldwide commitment to addressing the climate change crisis and signify a real call to COP15 and the politicians who will take the decisions.

My impressions after one week in Copenhagen are difficult to formulate precisely. It seems that negotiations are going on and it is a fact that some draft texts circulate. I feel frustrated because of the one sided and narrow economic and market logic that is being used here, but I am also happily surprised that there are voices reacting against this and pointing out that more will be needed to reach a sustainable agreement that will allow all of us to mitigate our climate change drivers and to adapt to the consequences of climate change that we cannot anymore avoid. At the same time, I think that what was originally planned as a conference of parties, has – because of the seriousness of the crisis – grown into an event of worldwide significance and into a summit of world leaders and heads of state. At this moment, it looks as if there are very high expectations and as if everything is still possible; ultimately, these heads of state will commit. This reveals at a “higher” level something that is clear at grassroot level (cf. the worldwide actions today): we face a serious, threatening worldwide crisis, which requires worldwide collaboration for its resolution. Moreover, although many of the concerns at COP15 are economic and political, I am convinced that in the course of the next week moral leadership will play a far greater role than has been the case until now – that is also the main reason in my eyes why it is important that world leaders and heads of state be present in Copenhagen. This moral leadership will be necessary to push forward difficult and painful decisions that acknowledge the limits of our planet and seek to heal the injustices that have grown out of greedy and consumerist behavior that has lost its value bearings. The moral leadership will also be necessary to face the consequences and sufferings that have already become unavoidable (the scientists would say: “to which our world is already committed”) and that are already very real as the climate refugees and the inhabitants of Tuvalu do not fail to tell us.

Well, let’s say that this is what I hope. Therefore, I think it is a pity that religions are only marginally or tangentially present in the Bella Center – they do not seem to be a serious conversation partner at the level where decisions are being taken. The issue is not that there should be a religious conversion, but rather that the resources found in religious experiences for discernment, vision, hope, planetary connectedness and the art of dealing with deep suffering, may offer opportunities for developing a shared vision and commitment, may help us to address worldwide injustice, and may lead us to change profoundly and rapidly our unacceptable life styles and worldviews.


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