It is so urgent that we all work towards Climate Justice. Here is my latest for the Huffington Post.
The environment may be the last frontier in which we need to fight for social justice. Hazardous waste that enters the air and our waters causes enormous damage and harmful changes that can become permanent. If we understand our actions will impact our lives and affect the generations to come, will we change our ways?
We tend to live according to the philosophy of “NIMBY”: not in my back yard. As long as “it doesn’t” happen in my own little “kingdom” that I have built, then we have no responsibility for any of the consequences of “it”. As long as the damage and the mess does not happen on my little piece of property, then it doesn’t matter what I, or others, do. This individualism and selfishness is slowly destroying the earth.
We tend to live in ignorance of consequences in our lives. We are inclined to believe that as long as it doesn’t happen in our own street, yard, or neighborhood, we will not be doomed. The longer we stay in denial, the worse our planet will become for everyone.
Therefore there are hundreds of environmental and religious organizations which are consciously and effectively addressing our worldwide concerns and taking measures to improve sustainability and climate justice.
In September of this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a Climate Summit with World Leaders in New York City. While the event was significant, the continual work of the world leaders to address climate justice must not stop with a Climate Summit. They must continue to work in their own countries with dedication and commitment to lower greenhouse gas, work for sustainability, and environmental justice. World leaders must continue to develop an international plan to account for “out of state” pollution that crosses borders to befoul air and water. It is becoming increasingly clear that the lack of plan to save the environment will result in ongoing devastation on our planet.
Without the commitment and work of each nation, each government, each community and every individual, we are slowly on the road to environmental apocalypse. Climate justice is a relatively new term in the world of social issues.
The concept of climate justice is based on the inference, from changes in climate, that the industrial and commercial activities of highly industrialized countries create climatic effects on countries they have done nothing to create those effects. These effects may manifest themselves in human health and climate displaced migration problems, inhibit agriculture or animal husbandry affecting a wide range of human rights: right to food, right to water and sanitation, right to a safe environment. It also assumes that, while laws rarely bridge national borders, countries can and should be held accountable morally for befouling the health and welfare of other countries. Climate change is a clear example of the extraterritorial effects of our actions.
To this end, in 1992, at the Rio Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emerged to tackle the issue of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The Conference of the Parties (COP) was designated as the supreme governing body of the Convention. This initiative has led to some positive results. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, a binding instrument of the Convention, was adopted. The Protocol expressed how much industrialized countries should reduce their CO2 emissions. At COPs, 195 countries meet once a year to share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies, optimal practices and negotiate how to prevent major consequences from climate change. Discussions include adaptation, mitigation, climate finance, technology transfer in order to support developing countries on climate change.
COP20, the 2014 meeting, will take place at the Army General Headquarters in Lima, Peru from December 1 to 12, 2014. Peru became a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 and joined the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Peru is committed to sustainability and contributes to the global effort of reducing greenhouse effect gases generated by human activity.
Many religious organizations and groups work for climate justice. The World Council of Churches (WCC) participates in the COP meetings as a nongovernmental organization. At the last COP, held in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013 representatives of faith communities expressed that the meeting concluded without fulfilling the expectations of the victims of climate change The World Council of Churches has raised the issue of the importance of climate justice for vulnerable communities.
The agreements reached at COP19 proposed a new mechanism to help victims of typhoons, floods, droughts and other impacts of climate change. Discussions on loss and damage continue as steps taken are still far from sufficient to respond adequately to the climate crisis in developing countries. Churches and faith communities have called to continue praying, fasting and advocating for climate justice until COP21 in Paris, where a new climate agreement should be reached.
Since the 1970s, the WCC has helped develop the concept of sustainable communities. Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992, a WCC delegation has participated at all COPs, organizing side events, ecumenical and interfaith celebrations, presenting a statement at the high level segment of the Conference. Over the years, the WCC helped foster a movement for climate justice touching millions around the world, including thousands of congregations from dozens of denominations.
God entrusts us with the stewardship of the earth. As in the recent film, Noah, one can speculate that the flood was punishment for bad stewardship of the land. This is an allegory that may become all too real, if climactic changes lead to events not unlike Noah’s great flood. God calls on us to care for the poor of the earth and calls the rich to share and live sustainably so all people might have life and have it in its fullness.
The greed of nations, corporations, and individuals contributes to climate change that plays a role in the destruction of this planet. This, in turn, creates problems for the human family, particularly the people who have been pushed to the margins. For the sake of creation, for the sake of our sister and brothers, for the sake of the planet, and for own sake, is is important to work for justice and continue to fight to reverse climate change.
We all need to join in the work of fostering climate justice before it becomes too late.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 7 books, Embracing the Other (forthcoming); Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” (Palgrave) co-written with Joseph Cheah; Reimagining with Christian Doctrines (Palgrave) co-edited with Jenny Daggers; Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock); Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave); The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other (Palgrave); and The Grace of Sophia (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.