A Kansas girl finds sunflowers and wheat and an exciting new technology at one of the side exhibitions at COP 21, the UN Climate Summit in Paris in 2015. The first ever CCOP program intends to train a new generation of UN climate observers from a Christian perspective. C-COP: "see-COP". C-COP: "Christians at the COPs".
By Lowell Bliss
COP 21 in Paris: I was in Paris in 2015 for the UN climate summit known as COP 21, the negotiations which produced the Paris Agreement. For all the headiness and historical importance of the event, for all the legendary wonders of France’s capital, I find it easy to choose a single highlight. My single most favorite thing was that I was able to bring an intern with me, a 21-year-old Environmental Studies major from Kansas State University. Though this was my first COP too, it was a precious gift to watch a future of compassion and service open up for a young leader like my intern.
COP 22 in Marrakech: Didn’t attend. Didn’t know any Christians or creation care organizations that did.
COP 23 in Bonn: Met up with three friends and wrote about it in my e-book: People, Trees, and Poverty:
"Where Do the Nations Gather? We have read that at the end of the Age they will gather at the throne of Jesus Christ— the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all creation. He will provide justice for all who have been treated unfairly. He will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev 11: 18). I don’t exactly know how to interpret that verse, but it sounds ominous . . . and relevant, considering where I am standing.
I am standing outside a huge, white, tented complex, the size of five US football fields. It is reminiscent in my imagination of where the nations used to gather during the time of our great grandparents, namely at the World Fairs, which were celebrations of progress. At the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, workmen shoveled coal into twelve AC polyphase generators and the planet blazed to light. The nations marveled at the spectacle. I wonder if anyone turned around to look at the smokestacks, giving a thought to unintended consequences? Probably not. Otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am: here in Bonn, Germany, November, 2017. There is a slight chill to the air, overcast, drizzly, but no snow. Soon the nations will gather in Pyeongchang, Korea for the Winter Olympics and even North Korea will show up. The nations do get together regularly for fun-and-games, but where I am standing, they get together for serious work. Here they do turn around and consider the smokestacks. The scientists here calculate consequences. The philosophers here redefine the concept of progress, too naively handed down to us from the World Fairs. The governmental leaders engage in a type of self-judgment, and the agreements which emerge declare that we refuse to be numbered among the destroyers of the earth. I’m at COP 23, the latest round of UN sponsored climate summits. In our time, where is the one place the nations gather on an annual and serious basis? They gather at these COPs; they gather around the issue of climate change year after year. In 2018, they will gather in Katowice, Poland for COP 24. Since a molecule of carbon dioxide, the main driver of global warming, stays in the atmosphere for 100 years, you can bet that there will be a COP 25, 26, 27, 28 . . .
COP is an acronym which stands for “Convention of the Parties.” Parties are the nations who are participating in joint climate action. (Convention of the Parties thus literally means “the gathering of the nations.”) And it is all the nations, including North Korea and Russia, including Qatar and Bolivia who were hold-outs at previous COPs, including war-torn Syria who became the last nation to sign the current climate agreement, including the low-lying island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives who may be overwhelmed by sea level rise and no longer exist when future COPs convene, including the United States even though her current president has withdrawn his cooperation.
And it is not just the political nations who have gathered. One of the most active areas inside the conference grounds is the Indigenous Peoples pavilion. I will spend time in that pavilion listening to speakers who wear colorful shawls and feathered headgear, and who speak in melodiously powerful, but rarely heeded, languages. The religious blocs are also here. In the Indonesia pavilion I will hear a Canadian Muslim woman quote from the Quran about good stewardship of the earth. I know in my bones that, unlike anywhere else on the planet in our day, here I am encountering the “panta ta ethne,” all nations, of Christ’s Great Commission, Matthew 28:18– 20. We are called to go among all people groups, many who are still “unreached” with the Gospel, but clearly encroached upon by extreme weather and the immutable reality of climate change."
COP 24 in Katowice, Poland: I was there by myself, that is, without my old friends of the Lausanne WEA Creation Care Network (LWCCN). When I got back home I e-mailed everyone: “Listen, if you hear that I’m going to COP 25 in Santiago, Chile but that I’m going without that discipleship program that we’ve been talking about since Paris, I want you to accuse me of being the crassest form of ‘a climate tourist.’”
Members of the US and Canada LWCCN—including Climate Caretakers, CRCNA Climate Witness Project and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action—have spared me this fate. Eden Vigil at the Ralph Winter Launch Lab, Frontier Ventures, is facilitating the launch of the first ever Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP). An “observer” is an official role for NGOs (non-profits) including faith-based ones. It is recognized by the United Nations. Observers influence government negotiators and communicate back to their own constituencies. They use the COPs as invaluable networking space. CCOP is designed to train the next generation of Christian observers and climate activists to be as effective as possible, and to view their work in the light of Scripture and the kingdom of God. If this program interests you, or if you know of someone who could benefit from such an experience, please read our webpage here. Applications are available on-line.
Learn more about the Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP)