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6 Ways to Walk the Talk for Climate Summit 2014

Every few months a new report shows that the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly irreversible. Clearly United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon understands the gravity of the climate situation when he noted that, “we know that we are not on track, and time is not on our side.”

On September 23, 2014 Ban will host Climate Summit 2014 in New York City with leaders from across the globe in government, business, and civil society. He’s set an ambitious agenda, asking attendees to bring bold ideas to reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and catalyze political will. Ban has his sights set on December 2015 when a new legal agreement on climate change needs to be approved in Paris.

But we’ve seen these summits come and go before. Despite notable advances in Kyoto in 1997 and in Copenhagen in 2009, we clearly have a long way to go. Significant progress over the next 15 months (between the New York and Paris meetings) requires that we, both politicians and citizens, take bold and decisive action.

Christians are called to care for creation. This includes advocating for policies that will effectively limit our carbon emissions. Real change will require us to commit to transformational advocacy, which pairs these systematic changes with personal action. Because “we can’t ask our leaders to do something we ourselves aren’t willing to do.”

Here are just six ways that we as Christians can engage in transformational advocacy and walk the talk on climate change.

        1.  Talk

This isn’t just for our small groups or church social justice committee. Creation care can be a part of our regular worship services and prayer lives.  Citizens for Public Justice and the Canadian Council of Churches have prepared a series of resources called “Living Faithfully into a New Climate” which includes sermon notes, bible studies, hymns, prayers, and youth activities. 

If we aren’t talking – and praying – seriously about the climate, how can we expect action from our leaders?

        2.   Walk

On Sunday, September 21, just two days before the summit, the People’s Climate March will be winding through the streets of Manhattan. But if you can’t make it to New York, there are still creative ways to get involved. Across Canada, people attending worship services will be leaving their cars at home and walking, biking, car-pooling, and taking public transit to church.

        3.   Fast

Join ClimateFast. Once a month, thousands of people of faith go without food for one day in a fast that calls for action on climate change. It’s one way to show your commitment and raise awareness on a consistent basis. It can also be a great spiritual and (if done safely) healthy practice.

        4.   Get Audited

While walking or biking to church is largely a symbolic gesture on climate change, reducing our churches’ carbon footprints can make a difference, and it saves money too. A green audit will identify ways to conserve water, use more renewable energy, and become more energy efficient.

The CRC Office of Social Justice has a two-page audit that can be conducted internally. Or use programs designed to assist congregations, such as Greening Sacred Spaces

         5.   Advocate

In 2012, Synod approved recommendations from the Creation Stewardship Task Force which called on “churches and their members to consider and advocate for public strategies that reduce carbon emissions and move us toward very low or zero net emissions.” Climate Summit 2014 is a key moment for our churches to take up this call.

Canada will send our ambassador for climate change to the summit, but the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister are not planning to attend.

Why do our leaders dismiss the importance of creating global solutions to climate change? Why don’t they think it’s important for us to be at the table? When will they step up?

These are the kinds of questions we should be asking when communicating with public officials.  And under a transformational advocacy approach, this also means letting them know what we have committed to in our churches and homes.

         6.   Support

Not everyone feels prepared to advocate themselves. Some people feel more comfortable supporting an organization and knowing that they are raising these concerns.

This isn’t just a shameless plug for my own organization, Citizens for Public Justice (though I guess it is that, too). There are other great groups that we can support to promote climate justice including KAIROS & the CRC Office of Social Justice.

The next year is certain to a critical one for God’s creation. If there was ever a time for Christians to join public discourse in order to address climate change, this is it.

Image: flickr user Brad Ovenell-Carter



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