By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
To the UNFCCC COP22 Session
Marrakech, Morocco, November 7-18, 2016
The 22nd session of the United Nations conference of the parties on climate change is, in some ways, an occasion for celebration that the world’s nations responded to the urgent call in Paris that we collaboratively address and confidently agree on the urgent agenda that lies before us.
Yet COP22 is, in many ways, also a painful reminder that 197 parties have today ratified a convention enforced after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. Since that time, a series of protocols and agreements have resulted in numerous negotiations and decisions over twenty-two international sessions of UN conventions. In some ways, then, we have come a long way. Yet, in many ways, we have made little progress. We certainly have not held our nations accountable to resolutions reached or for violations incurred.
For twenty-two years, then, the world’s leading authorities and politicians have fundamentally agreed on the problems of global climate change and have held endless consultations and high-level conversations on something that requires practical measures and tangible action.
Twenty-two years, however, is an unacceptably long period to respond to the environmental crisis, especially when we are conscious of its intimate and inseparable connections to global poverty, migration and unrest.
Twenty-two years, moreover, is an unjustifiably interminable period to tackle the expansion of fossil fuels, when scientists inform us we have less than two decades not simply to reduce but in fact to replace them with renewable energy.
Twenty-two years is, indeed, disgracefully belated for governments apathetically to pursue the same politics, for corporations dishonestly to “greenwash” the same policies, and for individuals arrogantly to continue the same practices.
After twenty-two years, it is finally time – and long overdue – for all of us to discern the human faces impacted by our ecological sins. It is not just a matter of who is culpable or who should compensate. It is not simply a question of whether or why we should change. And it is certainly not a problem of how some can continue to profit or how we can least change.
It is human beings – all of us, but especially the “least” and most vulnerable or marginalized among us – that are inequitably affected and irreversibly impacted. How, then, can any nation justify the suffering of its people? How can any industry defend the exploitation of its consumer? Unless we all perceive in our attitudes and actions, as in our deliberations and decisions, the faces of our own children – in the present and in future generations – then we shall continue to prolong and procrastinate the development of any solution; and we shall persist in obstructing or restricting any implementation.
What price are we prepared to pay for profit? Or how many lives are we willing to sacrifice for material or financial gain? And at what cost would we forfeit or forestall the survival of God’s creation? It is our humble, yet bold prayer that all parties at the COP22 will recognize and respond to the high stakes involved in climate change. One way would be to implement the COP21 agreement of Paris without further delay.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on November 3, 2016
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch