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Raising Our Voices

November 9, 2022
Allen Drew and Samuel Chiu are at COP27 as Christian Climate Observers.
Allen Drew and Samuel Chiu are at COP27 as Christian Climate Observers.

Leaders from around the world are gathering at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 6-18. Two people affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church are there with them.

The goal of the annual climate change summit is to push world leaders into charting a sustainable path toward reducing worldwide carbon emissions. Every year the urgency is palpable. And yet, as the earth’s temperature continues to rise, commitments from past COP meetings need to be transformed into lasting, concrete action.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America is deeply concerned about this issue. Synod 2012 published a creation-care mandate, and the Climate Witness Project is an outcome of that mandate.

Synod stated that “human-induced climate change is an ethical, social justice, and religious issue,” and synod called “the churches, members, and denominational bodies to be voices for justice and public examples in the effort to live sustainably within our God-given resources, to promote stewardship in our own communities and our nations, and to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable among us and for future generations” (Acts of Synod 2012, pp. 803-804).

The Climate Witness Project (CWP) is a joint initiative of World Renew and CRC Social Justice. It is designed to walk with congregations as they learn about the realities of climate change, help them be better stewards of the resources they have been given, and speak to their public officials about climate policy that will benefit the earth, people around the world who are poor and vulnerable, and future generations.

Two CWP partners, Allen Drew and Samuel Chiu, are on the ground at COP27 as Christian climate observers. Drew is a commissioned pastor at Spirit and Truth Fellowship CRC, Philadelphia, Pa. He also serves as the CWP regional organizer in the Eastern United States.

Chiu is a licensed minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada. He works for A Rocha Canada and is the CWP regional organizer in British Columbia. Both are eager to do their part at COP27.

CWP partner Rev. Richard Kilmer pointed out that at COP26, “all nations were asked to make promises about the amount of greenhouse gases they would cut by 2030 and 2050. When all of those gases were added up, nations were only able to ensure that the temperature of the globe would increase 2.4 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century. [They] will have to set new goals for COP 27 in Egypt.”

This desperate need for action is why Christian advocates need to speak out, pray for, and report back on COP meetings. The Climate Witness Project cosponsors the Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP), an organization that sends trained Christian advocates to COP meetings as credentialed “observers.” CCOP participants pay their own way to the conference, and there are carbon offsets in place for them.

What’s a Christian climate observer? They can officially do the following:

  • Develop position papers and make formal submissions.
  • Hold bilaterals with government delegates.
  • Showcase and advocate through press conferences and exhibits.
  • Make joint constituency statements in the plenaries.
  • Prepare for dialogues and briefings.

Further, Christian climate observers can pray for God to work during the meetings. They can bring the light of God’s Word into the discussion. They can help their faith communities at home better understand and advocate for the issues at hand. That’s why Drew and Chiu’s participation is so important.

“The climate crisis is fundamentally unjust on a global scale,” Drew said. “Rich nations are most responsible for the emissions that are driving the crisis forward, yet because of their wealth they are more able to adapt to the growing climate impacts. Poor nations, on the other hand, are least responsible for the climate crisis, and yet because they are poor they are least able to adapt to the impacts caused by the rich nations. My hope and prayer is that this COP will channel more resources from rich countries to poor countries to help them adapt effectively to the troubles we have brought upon them.”

“Care for the creation, including climate action, is at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he has come as the Lord of all and for all and is going to reconcile all things to himself, things on earth and in the heavens,” added Chiu. “We, the followers of Christ proclaiming the gospel, are to bear witness to this grand objective, and that witness includes our relations with the lands, the oceans, the wildlife, farm animals, plants, insects, and human communities, as well as our ways of living in and interactions with this wonderful creation of the great King.”

Kris Van Engen, a justice mobilizer with World Renew, believes that the CCOP program is especially important because “CCOP [advocates] aren’t at these meetings fighting for their own special interests. Instead, CCOP is there to stand with and to back the voices of those communities who are harmed the most by climate change but listened to the least. As people of faith, we cannot be silent when the injustice of climate change is so clear.”

Drew, Chiu, and other CCOP participants will be regularly sharing their thoughts and reflections via the CCOP Newsletter. This newsletter will only be published leading up to, during, and shortly after COP27 ends. Sign up here!