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Blog written by Lydia Mogano, Regional Coordinator for SAFCEI, attending COP23:

Praise be to God, the almighty one who sustains all life on earth! As I echo words of praise from the Pope’s encyclical (Laudati Si), I embrace all the continuous prayers, meditations, singing, dancing, and also silence from the various faiths here in Bonn and far away in Africa, Fiji and the rest of the world. Moreover, the Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si remains one of the most pivotal environmental action instrument of our time which can assist the implementation guidelines and pathways here in Bonn.

The Conference of the Parties 23rd Session to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 23, also known as the implementation COP) brought together leaders and civil society from over 190 member nations from the 6th – 17th November 2017 in the city of Bonn.

As part of the small Pacific islands, Fiji is hosting this years’ COP because it’s limited capacity to carry over 22 000 delegates from around the world. Fiji’s selection was to highlight adverse climate change impacts on the poor and most vulnerable nations, their livelihood and survival.

The new Paris agreement as well as the recent IPCC report (AR5) strongly recommends transformation in the global economy from a high carbon intensive to low carbon development in order to stay well below a global average temperature increase of 2°C and further to 1.5°C (thereby calling for substantial emission reductions, almost halving emissions by 2050). Therefore, this agreement seeks to promote urgent, just and ambitious climate change action (in its broadest sense) as well as ending poverty and achieve sustainable development goals.

Ahead of the COP

On the 5th and 11th of November 2017, the civil society movement comprised of environmental NGOs and Faith communities gathered in the city of Bonn to march to the UN headquarters where COP 23 is held, calling for climate justice and the end for coal mining and use. This is because countries do acknowledge that is crucial therefore to maximize justice and equity regarding the nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate agreement in line with the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR&RC) provisions of the Convention.

However, the current market (and political) systems make it hard to allow an effective transition to low carbon development. Within this low carbon transition phase, a just energy transition process is essential where (to name a few) the need to sustain the ecological integrity and to alleviate poverty (wherein the gap between the rich diminishes), increases access and affordability to all, promotes transparency and good governance as well as increased public participation (both in the decision making process of the energy choices and production) are prioritized. To this end, members from civil society and ordinary people in Bonn are adding their voice within the COP processes by continuing to amplify the necessary pressures needed to speed up the transition process towards 100% renewable energy system, high energy efficiency and sustainable lifestyles.

By far, South Africa is the only country which mentions the concept of achieving a just energy transition in its NDC and it is our hope that many countries follow suit and apply it in real and equitable manner.

I had the opportunity to be a part of the Just Energy study tour organised by Brot fur die Welt (German Development and relief agency of the Protestant church) in Rurh and Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. We learnt about how to exit the coal economy from the ecological, and social dimensions and we saw examples of the Renewable Energy projects (Solar and Wind) and their potential, although finance alongside politics remained the major driver or enabler for the transition.

In other words, I would like to urge Parties to increase the level of urgency and place the cry of both the earth and the poor and vulnerable at the heart of the negotiations especially in the second week.

At the beginning for the UNFCCC COP 23, the COP presidency expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families who suffered from the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean Islands.  He invited prayers and support from interfaith communities while ushering in the spirit of Talanoa (a Fiji expression which refers to having frank conversations which are generally guided by empathy, compassion, respect, love and humility) hoping for effective cooperation of delegates, Parties and non-state actors at COP 23.

What is most important is to see equity and justice becoming the pulse for both international and national climate actions and support as opposed to economic growth alone! Acknowledgement was also given to the hard work that was achieved in Morocco and highlighted the significance of achieving progress in Bonn.

In general terms, progress would mean that delegates would produce clear implementation guidelines of the Paris agreement no later than COP 24 in 2018. Moreover, Parties must prioritise the following within COP 23 deliberation: raising ambition on Pre-2020 action goals, as well as on providing means of implementation and support especially for Climate finance, Adaption Fund to serve the Paris agreement, Loss and damage, technology transfer and capacity building.

Faith communities journeying together

At COP23, diverse faith based and spiritual organizations and communities are embarking on a journey towards promoting lifestyles of compassionate simplicity for the climate, the human family, and the community of life. This campaign is designed to create a global community of conscience and practice to reduce emissions according to the UNFCCC global temperature goal (of 1.5⁰C) through commitments in the areas of energy use, diet and transportation.

Faith communities will work together through a program of support and action which will take shape over the coming year to invite sustainable living commitments from spiritual and faith leaders and people of faith globally and everyone is invited from Parties, businesses, civil society, households and to individuals. The South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) also invites faith leaders, especially in southern Africa, to join the Faith Leaders Environmental Advocacy Training programme and scale up just energy transition dialogue as well as the environmental and climate adaptation actions on the ground.