Religious leaders call for inclusion in COP 28 talks

Delegate at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), December 1, 2023. [Courtesy]

Religious leaders have called for inclusion at the decision-making table during the annual global climate change summit.

Speaking in Dubai at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) Friday, Dr Tinashe Gumbo, Programme executive secretary All African Council of Churches (AACC), at the Africa Faith Actors Network-Climate Justice (AFAN-CJ) said the quest for justice and environmental well-being was paramount for human and other living things’ existence as per the creator’s command.

"Since the welfare of Earth is our welfare, we are trying to pursue justice. The network engages in climate issues at the grassroots level. The human aspect in this debate also needs to be addressed. How do we ensure they are addressed, especially for the next generation?” posed Dr Gumbo. 

The AFAN-CJ said it continues to amplify the African voices of the youth, backed by the AACC in an initiative that will ensure youth adopt the slogan “Africa my home, Africa my future”.

Shantanu Mandal, a climate change journalist speaking at the Faiths Pavilion in Dubai, said it was important to respect everyone's opinion in the climate talks, hence the need for the faith leaders’ inclusion.

“We must avoid a casual attitude and get to work, as commanded in the holy books,” she said.

Dr Gumbo was disappointed that despite evidence shared by scientists to get to a solution to the climate crisis, climate deniers persisted and derailed solutions findings.

“There is a challenge, as climate deniers dismiss solutions suggested by scientists,” he said.

Julia Rensberg a representative from Sweden church, echoed Shantanu’s sentiments, saying it was important to start from home, then with neighbours, to bring a common understanding.

"We cannot hope for the scientist to solve and we must have faith in our solutions because it can help us,” said Ms Rensberg.

Dr Gumbo affirmed that religious leaders had a role to play now, not tomorrow, to alleviate the negative effects of climate change.

“We must come together to address the problems, acknowledging the efforts made by religious leaders by coming up with a faith pavilion and encouraging leaders of faith to commit to each other through the two weeks of COP28 so that their voice is amplified,” he said.

Sandra Ombese, a delegate with the Lutheran World Federation said climate adaptation measures should be embraced for the sake of the youth, who are not only victims of climate change but also valuable contributors to climate action.

“Skills development, being meaningfully engaged can help young people up-skilled with decision-making, leadership and professional development,” she said.

“In recognition of the importance of youth involvement, the network aims to amplify their voices by appointing a youth secretary, guided by the slogan: "Africa my home, Africa my future,’ to reflect the aspirations for a positive future on the continent,” said Dr Gumbo.

Ms Mandal emphasised the significance of addressing issues at home, respecting diverse ideologies, and maintaining a serious attitude to foster genuine change.

The sentiments were echoed by Ms Rensberg, who cited promoting mutual understanding through simple gestures like greeting neighbours.

Indeed there are challenges in aligning scientific solutions with local beliefs and welcoming faith actors to bridge the gap.

Ms Ombese under-scored the role of youth as agents of change, emphasizing skill development and meaningful engagement to cultivate leadership and contribute effectively to climate action.

Dr Patrick Verkooijen, the CEO of the Global Centre, acknowledged that the private sector in Africa was missing in action, and needed to change.

"I'm here to tell you that it can, we have to bring the next frontier to contribute 40 per cent of adaptation flows in Asia," he added. 

“Of course countries need access, communities need access, and we have to innovate. Adaptation cannot have more than six to seven stressed economies,” he said.

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