Action for COP28: “We want Climate Justice Now”

by Stephen Awre

Columban Missionaries in London and Birmingham supported events to mark the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday 9th December, coinciding with the COP28 climate summit in Dubai. Ellen Teague and James Trewby of the Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology team report on how faith based organisations across the UK came together to call for world leaders to take meaningful action to end the destructive impact of fossil fuels.

The Global Day of Action started for the Columbans in London by meeting up with Christian Climate Action, Operation Noah and Tearfund representatives, Laudato Si Animators and Quakers with their banner, ‘Quakers for Climate Justice.’ We walked down to St James Square and prayed standing outside the offices of the extractive giant BP. Others arrived to join the Faith section – including Westminster Justice and Peace, Jesuit Missions, and Green Christian.

Columbans present were Frs Ed O’Connell and Kevin McDonagh and Columban Sr Kate Midgley. Also, Ellen Teague of the Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology team.

Prayers were led outside BP by CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund which used the ‘Prayer for our Earth’ from the Laudato Si’ encyclical. And behind the Laudato Si’ Movement banner were Jesuit, Franciscan and Salesian priests. Religious sisters represented included the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, Sisters of St Andrew and a Medical Mission Sister.

A rally outside BP led by the Climate Justice Coalition, with the banner – ‘Climate Justice Not Colonialism’ – highlighted that BP has signed new gas exploration licences with Israel off the coast of Gaza, “and makes billions while fuelling climate breakdown.” We chanted, ‘What do we want? Climate Justice; When do we want it? NOW!’

There were shouts of ‘SHAME’ at the “hypocrisy” of Rishi Sunak flying in to COP28 on a private jet for an 11-hour visit and his rowing back on key net zero targets and giving the go-ahead to new oil and gas exploration licences in the North Sea. Also, at the distress of “sacrifice communities” providing materials for the energy transition without their consent.

Izzy McIntosh of Global Justice Now highlighted that “fossil fuels are on the COP28 agenda because of action from the streets.” She stressed the importance of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is spearheaded by the Pacific Island States and which Colombia signed up to support this week.

Tweets used the hashtag #Now We Rise. Operation Noah tweeted: ‘Fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell are overheating the planet, underinvesting in renewables & continuing to explore for new oil & gas against international warnings. We can’t have new fossil fuel developments if we hope to limit global heating to 1.5C.’ An array of creative banners included, ‘Political leaders listen up! Temperatures are rising. Corporate profits are rising. Now we’re rising.’

Then on we marched to the nearby offices of BAE Systems, led by a lively steel band, for more speeches. Banners prominent here included, ‘Welfare not Warfare’ and ‘Climate Crime Scene’. Campaigners reported blocking BAE Systems sites just a few days ago in Lancashire, Brighton, Bournemouth and Glasgow, in the latest demonstrations against weapons being sent to Israel. Young Green New Deal activists called for politicians to back a Green New Deal in their next manifestos.

Then moving down to Trafalgar Square, the march met up with the 6th national march through London for peace in Palestine, calling for a permanent ceasefire. Many joined in with that protest.

Another Columban group attended a similar event in Birmingham. James Trewby writes:

Rail strikes prevented our Columban/Diocesan group joining the COP28 Day of Action in London – so we joined in Birmingham. We met in the rain outside Carrs Lane Church to pray, using materials prepared by CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund:

“Together, we put our faith into action for climate justice. We pray with our feet, one foot in front of the other. We pray with words on our lips. We pray with our hands, holding placards high. We believe in the power of prayer and our calling as the church to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before our God.”

We then joined with others, including those who had just completed a ‘critical mass’ cycle ride, to march through the city centre, pausing outside the town hall and Christmas markets. Our group of CAFOD volunteers, educators, Columban staff and supporters, Laudato Si’ animators and families were proud to carry the banners made by the pupils of St Bernard’s Catholic Primary School during their recent Day of Action. As we walked, the XR drumming group (featuring one of our previous Columban Faith in Action Volunteers) kept our spirits high. It was wonderful to march with such a diverse group, young to old, of many ethnicities and creeds, united in solidarity with the suffering planet, our common home.

These two events were among countless protests taking place around the world on Saturday demanding that leaders commit to action before COP28 ends. There were around 40 across the UK.

The day of action in Scotland saw campaigners from Justice and Peace Scotland and SCIAF join Oxfam and others outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to add their voice to support a fast, fair and financed global end to fossil fuels.

At the COP itself in Dubai, hundreds gathered to support the Global Day of Action and to urge world leaders to step up on action to end fossil fuels.

Columbans and the climate crisis

Columban Missionaries witness to the affects of climate change on the poorest communities where they work. Read more about their involvement in campaigns for climate justice.

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